K Annamalai: Police-officer-turned politician blamed for AIADMK’s exit from NDA

Sep 26, 2023 04:00 PM IST

Annamalai resorted to aggressive politics as the BJP sought to expand its limited influence in the state much to ally AIADMK’s discomfort

In the run-up to the 2021 Tamil Nadu polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) courted superstar Rajinikanth as it sought a foothold in the state. Rajinikanth was expected to shake up the politics in the state, where the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Opposition All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) have held power since 1967.

Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai. (ANI)
Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai. (ANI)

Rajinikanth formed Rajini Makkal Mandram but backed out in December 2020. The DMK wrested power from the AIADMK months later with the BJP managing to win just four seats in the 234-member House. K Annamalai, 39, who quit the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 2019, would subsequently be elevated to the state BJP chief’s post in July 2021 around a year after joining the party.

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Annamalai resorted to aggressive politics as the BJP sought to expand its limited influence in the state much to ally AIADMK’s discomfort. The ties between the two parties soured to an extent that AIADMK on Monday quit the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

Annamalai’s claim that Dravidian stalwart CN Annadurai apologised to Forward Bloc leader late U Muthuramalinga Thevar for allegedly insulting Hinduism was the immediate provocation. The AIADMK rubbished the claim as untrue amid simmering tensions between the two parties for months. The tensions flared up on September 11 when Annamalai cited an anecdote from 1956 to make his claim about Annadurai.

AIADMK leader KP Munuswamy accused the BJP’s state unit of insulting Annadurai and the late former chief minister J Jayalalithaa and criticising their ideology. The AIADMK did not name anyone but blamed the BJP’s state leadership in what was seen as a reference to Annamalai.

BJP chief JP Nadda met a delegation from the AIADMK late last week in what was seen as its last-ditch attempt to seek action against Annamalai. The AIADMK’s exit from the NDA underlined the backing Annamalai enjoys from the BJP leadership. In July, Union home minister Amit Shah addressed Annamalai in Tamil as thambi (younger brother) and praised his work.

AIADMK viewed Annamalai as an uncontrolled political greenhorn even as the BJP sought to project him as a sincere leader who quit IPS for clean and corruption-free politics in Tamil Nadu. Born in 1984 in Thottampatti village in Tamil Nadu’s Karur district, Annamalai studied engineering in Coimbatore before receiving a Master of Business Administration degree from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management Lucknow.

He was the Bengaluru South deputy police commissioner when he quit IPS in June 2019 around the time Rajinikanth launched his party.

A BJP leader, who did not want to be named, said Annamalai has finally brought the BJP to the mainstream in Tamil Nadu. With his almost daily press conferences, Annamalai has ensured that the party is regularly in the news. His statements including against AIADMK grabbed eye-balls.

He has critics within the state BJP unit too. “He has sidelined a lot of veterans and workers who were groomed in and have been working for the party,” said a second BJP leader.

Annamalai was reported to have threatened to quit politics at a closed-door BJP meeting earlier this year if the party continued the alliance with the AIADMK. In an interview, he spoke of Jayalalaithaa’s conviction in a disproportionate assets case and prompted the AIADMK to pass a resolution against him in June. AIADMK had since then been asking the BJP leadership to reign him in.

Annamalai did not respond to HT’s calls and messages for comments. In an interview with HT in 2021, he said he did not want to be known as a Dravidian politician.

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    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is presently Assistant Editor of the Hindustan Times where she covers Tamil Nadu & Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote prime time news bulletins. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, child and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a journalism fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship at Singapore and the KAS Media Asia- The Caravan for narrative journalism. Divya has a master's in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As an independent journalist Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.

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