Updated: August 27, 2021 8:26:38 am
FACTIONALISM IN Tamil Nadu BJP has taken an ugly turn with two relatively new entrants in the party – state unit chief K Annamalai and YouTuber Madan Ravichandran – being at the centre of a controversy this week over allegations of sexual misconduct against a senior party leader from the RSS.
Triggering the storm, Ravichandran on Tuesday morning released a video, making serious allegations of sexual misconduct against BJP state general secretary K T Raghavan, a prominent RSS face in the party. Following the allegations of his misconduct with a woman party worker, Raghavan denied the charges and resigned from his post.
Ravichandran’s claim that he released the video with the consent of state BJP chief Annamalai forced the latter to issue a statement, claiming ignorance about details of the video although he admitted that he was aware of the issue.
On Wednesday, Ravichandran and a woman associate, were suspended from the party for their actions, which were considered “against the interest of BJP ideals”.
Upset over the action, Ravichandran released another video on Thursday, this time targeting Annamalai.
The video, posted on his popular social media page “Madan Diary”, contained Ravichandran’s secretly recorded conversation purportedly with Annamalai, in an attempt to prove that the state party chief knew about the allegations against Raghavan and that he had also given multiple options to deal with the issue. The options were to release the video and make the party act or take Ravichandran to Delhi to brief top leaders although it would take time for action.
Annamalai allegedly also admits that he was aware of sexual misconduct charges against senior leaders in the state unit but says he has limitations as state party chief.
After the tapes were released, Annamalai did not issue any statement or was available for comments when contacted.
After the first video was released, he had said Ravichandran had approached him twice and that he had promised action as the party chief but “not before verifying the video and seeking explanation from the concerned persons”.
Incidentally, Annamalai and Ravichandran, both in their 30s, were among those who were hurriedly inducted into the party ahead of the recent assembly elections.
A former IPS officer from Karnataka, Annamalai joined the BJP in August 2020 and was known to be close to BJP national general secretary B L Santhosh. He was elevated as the state party chief in July 2021, barely 11 months after he joined the party.
YouTuber-journalist Ravichandran joined the BJP in October 2020, considered a “surprise induction”. Having worked with many Tamil news channels and websites, what made Ravichandran seemingly popular was his own style of journalism and his “Madan Diary”. Ravichandran was considered an asset for the BJP to counter rival talking heads and social media influencers.
Party leaders, who did not want to be named, told The Indian Express that several factors were in play in the latest controversy. “There is a factional feud between senior Brahmin, mostly RSS-backed, leaders and non-Brahmin leaders, who have emerged in recent months and years,” said a leader. Quick elevation of non-Brahmin leaders such as L Murugan, first as party state chief and now as Union minister, and Annamalai as party chief, may have sidelined many veterans.
A top BJP leader, who previously held national positions, said Annamalai should have handled the situation better after the first video was released. “Although Ravichandran was suspended later, the way Annamalai handled the issue initially was unbecoming of a party state president. He was outspoken, he even suggested releasing evidence,” he said. “He should either resign or challenge the video.”
However, other leaders said the episode will not impact the party. “This is more of a shame. People are watching this. But it is not a reason for Annamalai to resign,” said a leader. Another leader said Ravichandran’s act was a breach of trust. “The YouTuber was a party member, and Annamalai had taken that freedom in their conversation. That trust was violated,” he said.