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Explained: Ahead of state polls, where does the BJP stand in Tamil Nadu?

BJP has been on a recruitment spree in Tamil Nadu since 2014. In the past years, it has brought to its fold celebrities, bureaucrats, politicians from other parties and even some individuals with criminal backgrounds.

A file photo of Amit Shah in Chennai in 2018. (PTI)

Tamil Nadu goes to polls in about six months. Top BJP leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah is scheduled to visit the state this weekend (November 21) to apparently discuss his party’s plans vis-a-vis the elections with alliance partners AIADMK and PMK.

However, as the BJP devises different plans to conquer the state’s electoral politics with its “nationalist” ideas, it is to be remembered that except for a few urban, upper class sections, the land and language have always been inseparable entities of ordinary Tamil lives. And it is these two cultural entities that make the saffron party’s journey in the Dravidian state difficult.

Growth of BJP in Tamil Nadu

In the months that followed after Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016, BJP had successfully organised, or was accused of orchestrating, a number of unusual events in the state: Split in AIADMK through a revolt by the then Chief Minister O Panneerselvam; a series of high-profile raids by central agencies targeting top businessmen, bureaucrats and senior cabinet members linked to AIADMK; and a merger of rival factions ensured the ouster of Jayalalithaa’s close aide V K Sasikala and her family from the party.

The outcome of these events made the top AIADMK leaders, having had no sophisticated skills to deal with an aggressive national party, to take BJP in their alliance ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. However, it had to pay a huge price for the decision– AIADMK lost 38 of 39 Lok Sabha seats.

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Even as people voted against AIADMK-BJP alliance in Lok Sabha elections, it is significant to note that AIADMK fared better in 22 assembly seats where it went alone, winning nine of them and saving the Edappadi K Palaniswami government from losing majority in the house.

In the 2016 assembly polls, BJP had 2.86 per cent vote share, more than what key DMK allies CPI, CPM and VCK had bagged together. Even as the Lok Sabha polls gave a setback to BJP, the party leadership is hopeful of winning at least five to ten assembly seats in the upcoming assembly polls.

Moreover, it is the number of seats that the national party would get to contest in the AIADMK alliance, rather than the number of seats it would win, that would show its significance in the upcoming polls.


Also read | Sasikala pays Rs 10 crore fine, release expected; TN CM says AIADMK will be away from her

Cold war in the alliance

The AIADMK leadership continues to show a tough face to BJP on several issues. Recently, AIADMK spoiled BJP’s much-hyped attempt to take out a month-long ‘Vel Yatra’ in the state, a rally modelled on rath yatra celebrating and visiting six abodes of the popular Tamil Hindu god Lord Muruga. BJP leaders, who are trying to defy the ban against Vel Yatra, are still being arrested. Two days ago, AIADMK mouthpiece compared BJP with Karuppar Koottam, an unheard YouTube channel charged under the Goonda Act for a video hurting religious sentiments of Hindus. In multiple statements, senior AIADMK leaders made it clear that no effort to fan communal tensions in the state will be allowed, a clear message to their ally BJP. The Dravidian majority continues to flex muscles against the BJP and their local leadership. 📣 Click to follow Express Explained on Telegram

Growing visibility of BJP in the state

Even as Tamil Nadu continues to be a tough terrain for the BJP with the party still struggling to mark its presence at the grassroots, the party’s visibility in the media has increased manifold in the past four years.


There is no single popular political Tamil TV debate show that goes without a BJP representative these days. Also, several big controversies in the recent past either revolved around BJP or it was the party itself that created it.

The national party has also started investing more resources in their campaigns, which may be much more than what DMK and AIADMK have done on social media.

For instance, there were nearly a dozen teaser videos released for Vel Yatra, with one of the videos kicking up a controversy for using AIADMK founder MGR’s picture Significantly, the videos had high-quality editing and graphics, often projecting the chief of the BJP state unit, L Murugan, as the prominent face of the party. Asserting his prominence in the party, celebrating his devotion for Lord Muruga and calling him the saviour of Tamil Hindus, most of these videos often resembled song sequences of superstars in Tamil movies.

More faces in BJP

BJP has been on a recruitment spree in the state since 2014. In the past years, it has brought to its fold celebrities, bureaucrats, politicians from other parties and even some individuals with criminal backgrounds. Recently, the actor-turned-politician Khushbu’s joining the BJP was a significant event.

Latest in the list could be M K Alagiri, elder son of late DMK chief M Karunanidhi, whom the BJP leadership is actively pursuing even as his proposed new outfit joining BJP could be all about embarrassing Karunanidhi’s family.

First published on: 18-11-2020 at 03:45:19 pm
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