BJP real alternative to DMK in Tamil Nadu; there is no Dravidian ideology, says K Annamalai
Annamalai spoke exclusively to News18 on a wide range of issues, including the BJP’s growth plans in Tamil Nadu, its ‘anti-Tamil’ image, what he thinks of the ruling DMK, his party’s relationship with the AIADMK, as well as issues like “Dravidianism” and “conversion”
Since taking over as head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Tamil Nadu unit in July 2021, policeman-turned-politician K Annamalai has been laying down the law for local leaders and cadres, and cracking the whip on the no – interpreters. He received praise from the top brass after leading the BJP to an honorable performance in this year’s Tamil Nadu urban civic polls, and has now set his sights on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and the 2026 Lok Sabha elections. ‘Assembly. It is addressed exclusively to News18 on a wide range of issues, including the BJP’s plans to grow in Tamil Nadu, its “anti-Tamil” image, what it thinks of the ruling DMK, its party’s relationship with the AIADMK, as well as issues like ‘Dravidianism’ and ‘conversion’. Edited excerpts:
How do you see the BJP in Tamil Nadu since you took over?
More than my support, it is the continuity that is important. The BJP has a strategy and we are working on it. In the party, we do not focus on individuals but on the party objective and the collective direction. Over the past ten months we have become aggressive in confronting the DMK and pointing out their mistakes in the popular forum. I strongly believe that the people of Tamil Nadu want an alternative to the DMK, an alternative that opposes family politics, corruption and corporate politics. BJP is such kind of party and the real alternative for DMK in Tamil Nadu in future.
How do you position yourself differently from the DMK compared to the people of Tamil Nadu?
The ideology of the BJP is 180 degrees opposed to that defended by the DMK. We believe in solving people’s problems and focusing on every segment of society, unlike DMK. Wherever we are in power, our service delivery has been extremely good and we have solved the problem of last mile delivery and provided people with what they want. The DMK cannot even deliver a Pongal gift it promised…one of 22 items…properly to its electorate. The BJP, on the other hand, aims to empower the common man, provide a clean image – both public and personal – and manage money in the most efficient way. On the other hand, the idea of governance of the DMK is to make people dependent on the party and the government.
Tamil Nadu is mismanaged by the DMK. The state is over Rs 6.5 lakh crore in debt and we have seen how close to Rs 9,000 crore of revenue comes from TASMAC. According to the DMK, social justice is about allowing alcohol to flow freely. Look at Modiji’s governance in Gujarat – without taking a single liquor lobby paisa as income, the government ran, and even a surplus budget was presented. There will definitely be a clash of ideas between DMK and BJP in the future.
Tamil Nadu is a state dominated by Dravidian ideology. Why do you think the BJP can become a major force?
There is nothing called Dravidian ideology. I keep asking the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Stalin, about the Dravidian model of development. The CM replied that the Dravidian model is about inclusion. Is the BJP not inclusive? If DMK is inclusive, how come a family runs the party? Tamil Nadu has 44 families who dominate the DMK, which means that two to three generations of this family continue to rise to power. Did they call it the Dravidian model of inclusivity? The model that is highly corrupt, personality-centric and does not focus on empowering the common man? It is not the Dravidian model but they should call it the Gopalapuram model or the DMK model. The DMK cannot appropriate the Dravidian world. We believe that anyone who belongs to this land is rightfully a Dravidian and it is the BJP that is the alternative people can trust. We are taking the DMK head-on on this issue.
So how do you define Dravidianism and BJP’s relationship to Dravidianism?
Dravidianism is about bringing everyone and social justice. This is not to denigrate the Brahmins, to denigrate the OBC or to be anti-Hindu. Dravidianism aims to empower all segments of society, as it has done for over 350 years. It’s about keeping the land spiritual and nationalistic. It is the land of Bharatiya that spoke of Bharat Mata. Tamil Nadu produced scholars, scholars, freedom fighters till 1967. Someone grabs Dravidian land and claims it as their own? It’s not acceptable.
You recently broke up with your ally AIADMK for a friendly competition in the municipal elections. How do you rate the performance of the party after contesting alone?
For any party, the legitimate test is to allow it to grow. First, in the city body elections, the BJP found a great opportunity to push the party through the state. Second, we were able to identify 5,000 next generation young leaders who competed on our party ticket. Third, the party was able to win seats where we were not present at all. And fourth, in terms of vote share, we are now the largest party. Overall, it can be said that the objectives and parameters that the party set for itself were achieved in the urban polls. This is just the beginning, we will only grow and get stronger from here.
How do you see the future of AIADMK?
I believe that all of our political partners should do well. It is for the benefit of the state. But as the state president of Tamil Nadu, I am more interested in the growth of the BJP. My main task is to increase the base of party cadres.
Does Sasikala still have a political future? What is your opinion on the possibility of TTV Dhinakaran and Sasikala being brought back to AIADMK?
I see that 8.5 million people in Tamil Nadu have a political future if they want it. Anyone can come and stand for election. I don’t want to comment on any specific person. The people of Tamil Nadu love those who work for them, fight for their rights and needs and serve them. Anyone who wants to do this has a future in Tamil Nadu politics. I don’t want to comment on the AIADMK and what is happening in their party. It’s up to their party leaders to take the call. I’m not interested in how the other side tries to solve their internal problems. I’m busy running my own party in TN.
Do you think Tamil Nadu should have an anti-conversion law?
We need to understand the difference between the anti-conversion law and the forced conversion law. You cannot force anyone by any means and try to convert them from the religion in which they were born. They do a disservice of two kinds: one to the religion they were born into and the other to the new religion they are trying to enter. Any type of forced conversion is condemnable.
What is your target for the number of seats for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections?
As a party, we don’t have targets or numbers. But I would be really happy and take my responsibility to send a large number of MPs from Tamil Nadu to Modiji’s cabinet. Modiji has done a lot for the people of TN and there should be a connection between the Prime Minister and the Tamil Nadu MPs who will be elected. The Centre’s projects should be carried out in a transparent manner. So far, TN has received Rs 7.5 lakh crore from the Centre. The people of Tamil Nadu deserve better governance and I am determined to send a large number of MPs from our state. For the 2026 parliamentary elections I have set a target of 150 MPs and for 2024 the higher the number the better for us.
What do you think of Kamal Haasan’s political future?
Many members left Kamal Haasan’s party and joined other parties. The people gave him two chances. They later realized that the party was not standing up for the cause of the people. It is up to him to decide his future in politics and the MNM. If you look at the recent city body elections, there is not one place where the MNM has come close to the BJP. It is not because Kamal Haasan opposed Modiji and the BJP that we do not win votes. People realized that this was only done for the good of politics.
Can the BJP get rid of the anti-Tamil and pro-Hindi label?
People don’t believe all that. Some parties may try to use their own television channels to propagate such allegations. It does not convert into votes. People don’t believe in beacons, rather they understand that the BJP stands for its principles and people are slowly accepting it.