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Lok Sabha poll outcome fans rumblings in Tamil Nadu BJP

Jun 11, 2024 08:58 AM IST

The results of the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections seem to have triggered infighting in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Tamil Nadu unit, with the emergence of several groups supporting K Annamalai, Tamilisai Soundararajan, L Murugan or Vanathi Srinivasan, senior leaders aware of the matter said on Monday.

Chennai

Tamil Nadu BJP President K. Annamalai during the Delhi Tamil Sangamam organised by Delhi BJP, in New Delhi, Sunday, May 5, 2024. (PTI)
Tamil Nadu BJP President K. Annamalai during the Delhi Tamil Sangamam organised by Delhi BJP, in New Delhi, Sunday, May 5, 2024. (PTI)

The results of the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections seem to have triggered infighting in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Tamil Nadu unit, with the emergence of several groups supporting K Annamalai, Tamilisai Soundararajan, L Murugan or Vanathi Srinivasan, senior leaders aware of the matter said on Monday.

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After the BJP drew a blank despite increasing its vote share and Annamalai, the party’s state president, losing in Coimbatore, the issue began with a former BJP functionary blaming him. This turned into a public spat between the supporters of Annamalai and Tamilisai Soundararajan (ex-BJP state president and former Telangana Governor) who lost the Chennai South seat.

“It is natural to have such infighting when the party is growing and some important candidates have lost,” a senior BJP leader said. “But, it has to be expressed internally. Such public spats to try and run parallel power centres is not good for the party. A state president may not be able to give instructions to a former governor. So it is the central leadership that has to intervene here and ask everyone to cooperate with the state unit’s president.”

A second BJP leader said that the cadre are already bogged down by the loss. “From juniors to seniors, everyone can express their opinion even if it is against the state president who is the decision maker for every state but it has to be done at the appropriate forum and not on social media,” the second leader said.

On June 7, Narendra Modi while addressing NDA leaders and newly elected MPs, commended the Tamil Nadu party unit. “Although we were not able to win any seats in Tamil Nadu, the fast pace at which our NDA vote share has grown gives a clear message about the future,” Modi said. This speech is the answer to the internal rumblings, the first BJP leader said.

BJP leaders had remained silent while the two camps supporting Annamalai and Tamilisai have been engaged in mudslinging on social media in the past few days. There were also differences between the two leaders themselves to former ally AIADMK’s stance they would have won 30 seats had they contested together. On June 6, AIADMK’s former minister SP Velumani blamed Annamalai for their party to break the alliance with the BJP last September.

“Until L Murugan and Tamilisai Soundararajan led the BJP’s state unit, there was no problem,” Velumani had said “Only after Annamalai became state president of the BJP, problems started…Had the alliance been intact, it would have won 35 seats in the Lok Sabha elections.”

Annamalai wondered how Velumani’s statement could be accepted when the AIADMK on its own failed to win a single seat though Soundararajan supported AIADMK’s view. “What he (Velumani) said is realistic,” Soundararajan had said. “The DMK would not have won all the seats had the BJP been in alliance with the AIADMK. This is poll arithmetic.” The ruling DMK had a landslide winning all 39 seats in Tamil Nadu.

BJP’s former intellectual wing functionary, Kalyana Raman, alleged that Annamalai was misleading the central leadership by showing an increase in vote share from a single digits in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections to double digits now. “...5.56% (in 2019) was by contesting nine seats and 11.24% was by contesting 23 seats. In other words, on a pro-rata basis, BJP should have got about 14.25% to equalise 2014 performance,” Raman said, calling for Annamalai’s resignation.

This led to a rift between supporters, and after Soundararajan gave an interview to a vernacular media in which she indirectly took a dig at Annamalai, the controversy heightened. “I had a yardstick when I was (chief) of the BJP where I didn’t encourage anti-social elements,” Soundararajan said. “But, recently anti-social elements have been taken into the party. I have no doubt that he (Annamalai) is a good leader. All I’m saying is we all are different types of leaders and we take different decisions.”

To this a former state secretariat, Tiruchi Suriyaa Siva, said that she shouldn’t discuss the affairs of the party in a public forum. “When you were the president, there were none to join the BJP in Tamil Nadu,” he said.

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