Tamil Nadu emerges ‘show stopper’ in 1st phase Lok Sabha poll

K Annamalai, BJP Tamil Nadu president

K Annamalai, BJP Tamil Nadu president

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BJP rides Annamalai cast power to enter Tamil Nadu politics

By Manish Anand

New Delhi, April 18: Finally, the moment has arrived for the people to queue up outside the polling booths and cast their votes. In the first phase of the seven-phased elections, the electorate in 102 Lok Sabha constituencies spread over 21 States and Union Territories will cast their votes tomorrow.

The spotlight has gone to Tamil Nadu. Polling will be held for all the 39 Lok Sabha seats. The land of Dravidian politics gave contrasting verdicts in the 2014 and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The demise of former state Chief minister J Jayalalitha, according to Chennai-based observers, created a political vacuum in Tamil Nadu. Known for bipolar politics, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024 appears determined to challenge the bipolarity.

The Jayalalitha-headed AIADMK had won 37 of the total 39 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. Five years later, M. K. Stalin-headed DMP won 38 of the total 39 Lok Sabha seats.

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The DMK icon, M. Karunanidhi, had passed away in 2018. But he had passed on the political legacy to his son, M. K. Stalin, before his death. Jayalalitha passed away in 2016. She left behind her party in a state of disarray.

Paneerselvan, who succeeded Jayalalitha as the chief minister of the state, is now a BJP ally. The BJP state unit chief K. Annamalai hails from the caste which had traditionally been the support base of the AIADMK.

For the BJP, Annamali is a ‘Singham’. Having taken out the ‘En Mann, En Makkal’ padyatra, Annamalai amplified the BJP’s Sanatan pitch in the backdrop of the purported statement by Udhyanidhi Stalin, the son of the incumbent chief minister.

“The BJP had won 3.77 per cent vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Now, the BJP is aiming to win vote share in the 20s. There is an unprecedented goodwill for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Tamil Nadu,” said Sumeet Bhasin, the head of the BJP think-tank, the Public Policy Research Centre.

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On realistic notes, the political observers in Chennai believe that the BJP has stitched a formidable rainbow caste equation with the allies. They bet that the BJP may win a vote share of 12 per cent or more in the Lok Sabha elections.

The first phase of the Lok Sabha elections has tasks clearly cut out for the Congress-led Opposition. It was the DMK which guided the Congress to embark on the politics of social justice. The origin of the demand for the caste census also lies with the DMK. The Congress would hope that the DMK stops the revolving door of electoral politics in Tamil Nadu.

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If the swings of 2014 and 2019 repeat, the DMK could be in trouble. The party may even dread the prospects of the extreme swings in state politics. Tamil Nadu competes with states such as Rajasthan and Gujarat to deliver almost all the eggs in one basket, in 2014 for the AIADMK and in 2019 for the DMK.

Modi had been sanguine about the BJP’s prospects in Tamil Nadu. He has given two television interviews, and the first was in Chennai. He launched the BJP campaign for the Lok Sabha elections from Tamil Nadu. He made four visits to the state in a short span of time.

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