As Modi pats Tamil Nadu 'karyakartas', trouble brews for Annamalai in state BJP

Former ally AIADMK also blames Annamalai for their dismal loss this election

Annamalai and Narendra Modi (File) Prime Minister Modi with state BJP president K. Annamalai at a rally in Tirupur | PTI

On Friday, two days after the election results, as he was talking at the NDA meeting, Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi was all in praise for his partymen in Tamil Nadu for putting up a “spirited fight.” He said the BJP’s vote share has increased and NDA has performed well in Tamil Nadu. While Narendra Modi was hailing his party colleagues in Delhi, dissent voices began growing against the Tamil Nadu leadership.

IPS officer-turned-politician K. Annamalai is facing the ire within and outside the party for the debacle. Guns are out against Annamalai, saying he was the sole reason for the party’s dismal show in the elections. Annamalai, who contested from Coimbatore, lost to DMK’s P. Ganapathy Rajkumar by a margin of 1.5 lakh votes.

“We are well-known faces in the state who will not lose an election. We would have certainly won if the strategy was right. It was strategised by the state leadership which he thought would work in our favour,” former Telangana governor and BJP’s candidate from South Chennai constituency Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan told the media.

Tamilisai was visibly upset against her party colleagues for being trolled on social media. She asked the netizens to stay controlled. “Not just the DMK and other party men, I am telling my own party men. Stay controlled. I am warning you,” she said. She said stern disciplinary action would be taken against those who try to portray..... Tamilisai was trolled for her hairstyle and looks by her own party colleagues, allegedly Annamalai’s war room, calling her “parattai” (slanderous description of coarse curly hair, in Tamil, often used to discriminate based on caste and creed).

Apart from Tamilisai, one of the senior leaders, Kalyana Raman, took to X, formerly Twitter, saying that Annamalai had deceived the party's high command about the BJP’s growth in Tamil Nadu. He called Annamalai a “pathological liar.” He said the BJP’s vote share has actually come down.

“5.56 per cent vote share in 2014 was by contesting 9 seats and 11.24 percent vote share in 2024 was by contesting 23 seats. In other words, on a pro-rata basis, BJP should have got about 14.25 per cent to equalise its 2014 performance. The BJP had only lost its deposit in two seats in 2014, as against 11 seats in 2024. Huge loss of face before common man and bad perception management and pathetic political misadventure,” he noted in his X post.

He also blamed Annamalai for curtailing the growth of seniors like Pon Radhakrishnan and Tamilisai Soundararajan in the party. “All the decision-making powers have been held by Annamalai and his war room thugs,” he noted. Kalyana Raman is a staunch RSS sympathiser who was jailed for his derogatory remarks against DMK leader and Chief Minister Stalin earlier.

On the other side, BJP’s former ally AIADMK, which helped the national party win four MLAs in the 2021 assembly polls too alleged, “If Annamalai had controlled his mouth, there would have been a better result,” AIADMK’s former minister and Madurai strongman R.B. Udhayakumar said.

Addressing a press conference in Coimbatore, AIADMK senior leader and Edappadi K. Palanisami’s lieutenant S.P. Velumani blamed Annamalai for the loss of both parties. "Our ties with the BJP were strong when Tamilisai Soundararajan and L. Murugan were heading the party in Tamil Nadu. The rift came after Annamalai took charge, because of his speeches. He made derogatory remarks about our icons, C.N. Annadurai and J. Jayalalithaa,” Velumani said placing the blame squarely on Annamalai.

However, Annamalai’s supporters called this “tantrums” to displace him from the state president post. Narendra Modi’s words of appreciation seem to add strength to Annamalai. A section of the party's office-bearers in the state unit, who back Annamalai, are of the opinion that the central leadership will in no way react to the statements made by Tamilisai and the AIADMK leaders.

“Annamalai is here to exist for the next few years. The high command believes that he was the sole reason for the party increasing its vote share,” said a senior leader who backs Annamalai. His supporters feel that Annamalai is being attacked by the party seniors and others as he might be rewarded for his performance and that he could be accommodated in the Modi 3.0 cabinet as a Minister of State or even as a minister. Earlier, after the poll debacle in 2019, Tamilisai was elevated as the Telangana governor while her successor L. Murugan was made the MoS in Modi 2.0. “The BJP central leadership has always recognised the performance of everyone in the party. This is because the others do not want Annamalai to grow above them," the senior leader said.

Yet, another section of the party feels that, if not immediately, at least before the assembly general elections in 2026, the high command will definitely realise the need for a change in the state leadership. "Annamalai’s style of politics might help the party show its presence in social media. But it will not reflect on the ground. It will be very difficult for an IPS officer-turned-politician like him to understand the political calculations in a state like Tamil Nadu,” said one of the senior office-bearers on conditions of anonymity.

But, even before Modi could appreciate the performance of the state BJP, Annamalai called it a “victory” saying that that party has increased its vote share pushing the AIADMK to the third position. “We have performed very well in the election. Our vote share has grown to a double-digit number. If AIADMK had stayed in the NDA, they would not have lost this badly. They have been pushed to third place in many constituencies and have lost deposits in many others. BJP is a force to reckon with in Tamil Nadu,” Annamalai said.

Annamalai had been vociferous for the past two years, since he took over as the party leader, claiming that the BJP is a force in Tamil Nadu. A team of people working for Annamalai within the party, and also on social media, have worked towards building ‘Brand Annamalai’, only to get more space for the BJP in the state. In September 2023, the AIADMK walked out of the NDA as Annamalai called Jayalalithaa “corrupt.” Incidentally, in the 2021 general election, he lost from Aravakurichi, one of the assembly segments in his hometown Karur, to the DMK.

It remains to be seen if the BJP which has come to power for the third time in a row under Narendra Modi, will stay calm believing that their vote share has increased or bring changes in the party hierarchy to retain its tally in the state assembly. 

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