K Annamalai: The man behind AIADMK’s break-up with BJP

K Annamalai: The man behind AIADMK’s break-up with BJP

Sep 26, 2023 - 21:30
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K Annamalai: The man behind AIADMK’s break-up with BJP

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (AIADMK) split from the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) did not come as a surprise for many. The Dravidian party had time and again taken objection to Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai’s remarks on its icons, including CN Annadurai and J Jayalalithaa.

Thus, the onus of the break-up between the AIADMK and the BJP is being put on Annamalai. However, the BJP’s top brass does not seem to mind and is reportedly “firmly backing” its TN unit chief.

Who is K Annamalai and why has he taken centre stage amid the fallout between the two parties? Let’s take a closer look.

Meet K Annamalai

Born in Tamil Nadu’s Karur district, 39-year-old K Annamalai is a police officer-turned-politician. After studying engineering in Coimbatore, he went on to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Lucknow, reported Hindustan Times (HT).

He was Bengaluru South deputy police commissioner when he quit the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 2019 to venture into politics in Tamil Nadu, as per the newspaper report.

Just a year after he joined the BJP in 2020, Annamalai was appointed as Tamil Nadu BJP’s chief.

He contested the 2021 Assembly polls from Aravakurichi in western Tamil Nadu, however, lost to Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) candidate Elango R.

While the DMK trounced AIADMK in the 2021 TN Assembly polls to come to power, the BJP managed to win only four seats in the 234-member House.

However, as per Indian Express: “While he lost (in the 2021 state polls), Annamalai’s star hasn’t dimmed, thanks to his penchant for staying in the news, which is clever positioning to stand out in a political field dominated by the DMK and AIADMK, with the BJP on the margins.”

As HT noted, Annamalai has adopted “aggressive politics” as the BJP seeks to expand its base in Tamil Nadu, where the power has shifted between only DMK and AIADMK since 1967.

Is the split with AIADMK a win for Annamalai?

Annamalai has locked horns with the AIADMK through his remarks on the party’s alleged corruption and its revered leaders.

During an interview earlier, K Annamalai, without taking AIADMK’s name, had said that “many administrations of Tamil Nadu were corrupt with former chief ministers convicted in courts of law”, as per a report in Mint.

He also irked the AIADMK by claiming that Dravidian stalwart CN Annadurai apologised to Forward Bloc leader late U Muthuramalinga Thevar for allegedly insulting Hinduism. The claim was dismissed by the Dravidian party.

Last week, AIADMK leaders had called upon BJP national president JP Nadda in New Delhi to apprise him about the “ground reality” and seek a “course correction” after Annamalai’s “insulting” remarks, reported Times of India (TOI).

On Monday (25 September), the AIADMK formally called off its ties to the BJP.

Announcing its separation from the NDA just months before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the AIADMK, as per ANI, mentioned, “The state leadership of the BJP has been continuously making unnecessary remarks about our former leaders, our general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami and our cadres for the past one year”.

After AIADMK’s announcement, the TN BJP chief chose not to make a direct comment, saying “Delhi leaders” will respond, as per ANI.

According to PTI, addressing BJP workers during his ‘En Mann, En Makkal’ (My land, My people) padayatra at Pollachi on Monday night, Annamalai said, “If I don’t do certain things, then I will lose the trust you have placed in me…we need to face challenges, overcome hurdles, take a stance to oppose some individuals”.

According to a report in Deccan Herald (DH), Annamalai told his party leaders at a closed-door meeting in March this year that he would quit as TN BJP chief if the central leadership continued its alliance with the AIADMK for the 2024 general elections.

He told the BJP Central leadership to fight the upcoming elections in TN solo if it wanted people to take its stand on corruption, nepotism, and good governance “seriously”, the report added.

“At a time when every party is trying to widen its network of allies at least to show some numbers, the AIADMK has walked out of an alliance with the BJP. This will give Annamalai enough room to hit out at the AIADMK on corruption and add credence to the BJP’s ‘Clean Up TN’ formula,” senior journalist R Bhagwan Singh told DH.

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Divisions within BJP over Annamalai

The TN BJP reportedly has mixed views about Annamalai’s aggressive style of politics.

While some have lauded his leadership, others have pointed out his “inexperience” and alleged “ignorance” of issues of the southern state, as per Indian Express.

Speaking to HT on the condition of anonymity, a BJP leader acknowledged that Annamalai has brought the saffron party to the “mainstream” in Tamil Nadu with his almost daily press conferences and ensuring the party’s presence in the media.

After the AIADMK split, BJP leader CT Ravi told ANI, “Eight months are left and what will happen in these months, we can’t say anything today. To make the party strong is the duty of every worker. Under the leadership of K Annamalai, great work of strengthening the party is being done.”

But not everyone is happy with the TN BJP chief.

“He has sidelined a lot of veterans and workers who were groomed in and have been working for the party,” a BJP leader told HT.

Some have also blamed Annamalai for the exit of several leaders from the BJP recently, most of whom went on to join the AIADMK.

As Indian Express noted, “How things turn out from here might be uncertain, but in either case, for the BJP – and by extension, for Annamalai – it is a defining moment.”

With inputs from agencies

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