From an aide of Jayalalithaa to a fervent fan of Modi, Nainar Nagendran’s long run in TN politics

Nainar is BJP’s Tirunelveli candidate

TN Lok Sabha elections BJP Thirunelveli candidate Nainar Nagendran while campaigning in his constituency | Facebook

Nainar Nagendran is one of the few names on the list of BJP candidates who are confident of a win. Once an ardent loyalist of Jayalalithaa, this former minister had kept the BJP alive in certain pockets in South Tamil Nadu. While BJP’s seniors like Pon Radhakrishnan were the only names from the deep south, Nainar’s popularity has surged in the region. He contested from Ramanathapuram in the 2019 election only to finish second and lose victory to Indian Union Muslim League’s Nawaz Kani. 

On Tuesday, Nainar Nagendran, 63, is in no hurry to wrap up the campaign and break for lunch. Isakkimuthu, a man in his late 20s comes running near his car to invite him into his village near Gangaikondan in Tirunelveli Parliamentary constituency. 

Nainar, as he is popularly known among the people of the district, is confident of a win. He is happy that Modi will wrap up his campaign for Tamil Nadu, from Palayamkottai. “Prime Minister is coming to campaign for me,” he says with a smile on his face. 

A sitting MLA from Tirunelveli Assembly constituency, Nainar is accepted by everyone across party lines in and around Tirunelveli. A native of Vaideeswaram village in Nagercoil, a town between Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli, Nainar’s advantage is being a down-to-earth person and a man accepted by all the OBC community in the region. He hails from the influential Maravar community, one of the sub-castes of the Mukkulathors. 

Nagendran’s political journey began in the late 1980s with the AIADMK after the death of MGR. It was when the party was split under Jayalalithaa and MGR’s wife Janaki. Nainar was part of the Jayalalithaa faction. In 2001, he was inducted into the cabinet by Jayalalithaa and handled lucrative portfolios like electricity, industries and transport. In 2006, he lost by a slender margin of 606 votes. In 2011 again he won from the same constituency but was sidelined in the party by Jayalalithaa for various reasons. In 2016 again Nainar lost by a very small margin. After the death of Jayalalithaa, he moved to TTV Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), only to shift to the BJP in 2017. 

“EPS doesn’t have the popularity like Amma. The AIADMK is not like how it was under Amma,” said Nagendran.

Subsequently, he contested from Ramanathapuram in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and lost to IUML’s Nawaz Kani. “Ramanathapuram was a challenging terrain for me to work,” he says when asked why he chose to contest from Tirunelveli this time.

Unlike the next-gen politicians in the BJP, Nainar doesn’t trust social media for campaigns. “The social media penetration is just 15 per cent. I always want to be with the people at the grassroots level and work from the ground.” 

A fervent fan of Modi, Nainar believes that only Modi can bring in change. “It is not like what you think. People believe in Modi. There is a huge acceptance for him in South Tamil Nadu. The forward community which used to vote for Amma is voting for the BJP now. Modi’s 10 per cent EWS and his attachment to spiritual beliefs help the BJP in the southern districts,” Nainar explains.

Ask him if he is still attached to the Dravidian school of politics, Nainar has an interesting answer. “Yes I am a Dravidian. But not attached to the policies and ideologies of the DMK.” Though he is part of the BJP, Nainar’s working style and reaching out to the people or his way of approach in the state assembly is that of an AIADMK party functionary. 

But Nainar is confident of a win and an elevation in the party in the near future.

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