The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won four seats in Tamil Nadu this time, making it eligible to enter the legislative Assembly for the first time in 20 years.
The saffron party had entered the Tamil Nadu Assembly for the first time in 1996 when C Velyayudham managed to win a seat from Padmanabhapuram in the Kanyakumari constituency. In 2001, they allied with DMK and contested in as many as 21 constituencies. They then managed to win four constituencies and entered the assembly for the second time. However, after the 2001 elections, BJP drew a blank in 2006, 2011 and 2016.
While some of their big leaders lost this time, the saffron party has won in Nagercoil, Coimbatore (South), Modakurichi and Tirunelveli. Veteran leader MR Gandhi, BJP’s national women’s wing president Vanathi Srinivasan, former minister Nayinar Nagendran and CK Saraswathi managed to better their opponents.
In Nagercoil, MR Gandhi was pitched against former minister and incumbent DMK MLA N Suresh Rajan. After the initial round of counting of votes, Rajan was leading by a fair margin. However, Gandhi soon picked up pace and overturned the lead. He finally came out on top after securing 88,804 votes while Rajan got 77,135, securing victory by a margin of 11,669 votes.
This will be the first time Gandhi would set his foot in the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly. He had contested on six previous occasions — in 1980, 1984, 1989, 2006, 2011 and 2016 — and lost.
The contest between Makkal Needhi Maiam leader Kamal Haasan and Vanathi Srinivasan in Coimbatore (South) garnered huge traction right from the day the candidates were announced. It had a nail-biting finish, with Vanathi edging out Kamal Haasan only in the last round of counting of votes.
Mayura S Jayakumar of Congress also contested in the constituency and gained the lead in the initial hours. He was then pushed to second by Haasan, who maintained the lead for a couple of hours. Vanathi then gained momentum and offered a tough fight to Haasan. Fortunes kept swinging between BJP and MNM. In the final round, Vanathi made inroads and managed to defeat Haasan by a slender margin of 1,728 votes. The BJP leader secured 53,209 votes while Haasan managed to get 51481 votes.
In Modakurichi, CK Saraswathi sprung a surprise by defeating former Union minister and DMK deputy general secretary Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan. This was again a close contest, with Saraswathi managing to defeat her opponent by a margin of just 281 votes. As per the ECI, Saraswathi secured 78,125 votes while Subbulakshmi got 77,844.
In Tirunelveli, BJP state vice-president and former minister in the AIADMK regime Nainar Nagendran secured a comfortable victory against DMK’s ALS Lakshmanan. Nainar received 92,282 votes and managed to beat his opponent by a margin of 23,107 votes.
Nainar, who switched his loyalty to BJP after J Jayalalithaa’s death, had contested on a BJP ticket in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Ramanathapuram and finished a distant third.
While BJP will be pleased with these performances, the defeat of some of its prominent faces will be a cause of concern for the party.
BJP state president L Murugan contested from Dharapuram (R) constituency and was pitted against DMK candidate Kayalvizhi. In the initial rounds, Murugan was maintaining a healthy lead. He suffered a setback after the 14th round as Kayalvizhi gained momentum and continued to lead by a margin of 2,000 votes. The contest became a tight race in the final rounds. At the end of the 26th round, Kayalvizhi was declared the winner. She managed to beat her opponent by a margin of 1,393 votes.
Actor Kushboo made her poll debut by contesting from the Thousand Lights constituency. Earlier reports had suggested that she would be contesting against DMK youth-wing secretary Udhayanidhi Stalin. However, after the NDA alliance allocated the seat to PMK, she chose to fight from Thousand Lights against DMK’s Ezhilan. The high-profile contest swung in favour of DMK right from the initial rounds. Dr Ezhilan managed to beat the Tamil actor by a margin of 32,462.
Senior leader H Raja who was elected to the Tamil Nadu assembly in 2001 lost to Congress candidate Mangudi by a difference of 21,589 votes. Former IPS officer K Annamalai, the young face of the party, contested from the Aravakurichi constituency.
Nicknamed as the ‘Singham’, Annamalai’s movements made news the day he said he would enter politics. He joined BJP in 2020 and was offered the vice-president’s post. He contested against DMK’s R Elango. At the end of 31 rounds, Elango defeated Annamalai by a margin of 24,816 votes.