BJP gets a foothold in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry

After a gap of 20 years, the BJP has won four seats in Tamil Nadu assembly. It has also opened its account in neighbouring Puducherry, where it had no presence before the polls and all three MLAs were nominated
Tamil Nadu, March 31 (ANI): BJP supporters carry party flag during the roadshow of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Udhagmandalam ahead of the assembly elections, on Wednesday. (ANI Photo) (ANI)
Tamil Nadu, March 31 (ANI): BJP supporters carry party flag during the roadshow of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Udhagmandalam ahead of the assembly elections, on Wednesday. (ANI Photo) (ANI)
Published on May 03, 2021 05:02 PM IST
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ByDivya Chandrababu

The Bharatiya Janata Party leaders should be more than happy with the party’s performance, especially in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, where the party’s vote share increased. In Kerala, its vote share did not go down much despite the Left Front alliance sweeping the polls.

For the first time, the BJP, a party considered to be one of Hindi heartland, has managed to make a mark in a southern state where its base was poor and it had failed to expand despite several efforts.

After a gap of 20 years, the BJP has won four seats in Tamil Nadu assembly. It has also opened its account in neighbouring Puducherry, where it had no presence before the polls and all three MLAs were nominated. The BJP won six seats there and is set to form the next National Democratic Alliance government in the Union Territory.

In Tamil Nadu, the BJP contested only in 20 seats in the AIADMK-led alliance and won four -- Tirunelveli, Nagercoil, Modakurichi and a nail-biting contest in Coimbatore South. The party got 2.62% of the total votes polled, which is two percentage points less than that of the Congress, which contested 25 seats in alliance with DMK.

The BJP has been pulling all stops to make inroads into the Dravidian heartland sensing an opportunity after the demise of stalwarts and former chief ministers J Jayalalithaa in December 2016 and M Karunanidhi in August 2018.

While it is evident that it is still the Dravidian parties that hold sway with the DMK winning a majority and AIADMK finishing with 66 seats, the wins, even if a handful, have given the BJP the push it needed for its vision to come into its own by 2026 in Tamil Nadu. “The wins have laid a solid foundation for the growth of our party,” said BJP national president and Tamil Nadu election in-charge, CT Ravi.

The last time BJP made gains in Tamil Nadu was in 2001 where it was in alliance with DMK and won four seats. To counter its image as a north-Indian, Hindu party, the BJP revamped its state unit which is headed by a Dalit, L Murugan. They led the Vetrivel Yatra in November 2020 for Tamil deity Lord Muruga who is worshipped widely by the locals in its attempt to consolidate Hindu votes. But it didn’t garner the response that was expected though national leaders in their rallies gave a war cry following the yatra. Prime Minister Narendra Modi started his political rallies by throwing up his hands and saying, “vetrivel” (victorious spear) and the crowd would respond “veeravel” (courageous spear).

On the ground, the BJP also strengthened its booth committees, activating more than 48,000 of them. “Their pro-Hindu rhetoric worked to some extent,” says political analyst Raveendran Duraisamy. “But it was the AIADMK that contributed to their wins, especially in Modakkurichi for C Saraswathi.” She created an upset by beating former DMK minister Subbulakshmi Jegadeesan. On the specific wins, Duraisamy is of the opinion that BJP’s MR Gandhi surprised three-time DMK MLA N Suresh Rajan because of a Hindu consolidation and in Tirunelveli, former AIADMK man Nainar Nagendran gave BJP a win with the caste support of Mukkalathurs and Devendrakula Vellalars. Modi has the support of the latter after he accepted their long-standing to group seven sub-castes together to be known by their heritage name.

Coimbatore south was a seasaw battle which had actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan leading through the day and finally Vanathi Srinivasan, who is also the BJP’s national women’s wing president, defeated him by 1,540 votes. “It was her individual work, she has been working in the constituency for more than three years which helped her reach the masses,” says Duraisamy.

In Puducherry, which is currently under Governor’s rule, N Rangasamy of the All Indian NR Congress (AINRC)-led NDA alliance is set to form the government in the 30 seat assembly. AINRC won 10, BJP swept six but their ally AIADMK drew a blank. Congress won only two while its ally, the DMK secured six seats.

From having just three nominated members between 2016 and 2021, an MLA in 2001, the BJP has come a long way. Besides, anti-incumbency and Rangasamy’s support base, this is also primarily due to the exodus of heavyweights from the Congress to the BJP; leaders such as former minister A Namassivayam and A John Kumar added to the saffron party’s tally. “BJP poached powerful individuals in Puducherry who helped them win,” says Duraisamy.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021