Since taking charge of the Tamil Nadu unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party in July 2021, K. Annamalai, who has gone from being a police officer to a politician, has made laws for local leaders and activists and cracked whips on non-executives. After leading the BJP in a credible performance in this year’s Tamil Nadu municipal elections, he has garnered praise from top personalities and is now focusing on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and the 2026 Assembly elections. He 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, and so on. ‘Dravidism’ and ‘conversion’. Edited parts:
How do you see the BJP in Tamil Nadu since taking power?
Consistency is more important than my responsibility. The BJP has a strategy and we are working to achieve it. In the team, we focus on the objective and collective leadership of the party, not individuals. In the last ten months, we have been attacking the DMK and pointing out their mistakes in public forums. I firmly believe that the people of Tamil Nadu want an alternative to the DMK – which stands against family politics, corruption and corporate politics. The BJP is one such party and the real alternative to the DMK in Tamil Nadu in the future
How do you differentiate yourself from DMK to the people of Tamil Nadu?
The BJP’s ideology is 180 degrees opposite to what the DMK stands for. We believe in solving people’s problems and focus on every section of society as opposed to DMK. Wherever we are in power, our service delivery has been extremely good and we have solved last-mile delivery problems and delivered what people want. The DMK can’t even give a pongal gift that they promised একটি one of the 22 items… right to their voters. The BJP, on the other hand, empowers the common man, provides a clean image – both public and private – and manages money in the most effective way. On the other hand, the idea of DMK rule is to make people dependent on the party and the government.
Tamil Nadu is being mismanaged by DMK. The state has a debt of over Rs 6.5 lakh crore and we have seen revenue of Rs 9,000 crore coming from TASMAC. According to the DMK, social justice is about allowing alcohol to flow freely. Look at Modiji’s regime in Gujarat: without taking a single penny as revenue from the liquor lobby, the government ran away and even a surplus budget was presented. In the future, of course, there will be a clash of ideas between the DMK and the BJP.
Tamil Nadu is a state inhabited by Dravidian ideology. Why do you think BJP can be a big force?
There is no such thing as a Dravidian ideal. I ask Stalin, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, what the model of Dravidian development is. The Chief Minister replied that the Dravidian model was about inclusion. Isn’t BJP inclusive? If DMK is inclusive, how does a family run a team? There are 44 families in Tamil Nadu who dominate the DMK and that means two to three generations of those families are coming to power. Is this what they call Dravidian Model of Inclusiveness? That model is highly corrupt, personality-centered and does not focus on empowering the common man? It is not a Dravidian model but they should call it Gopalapuram model or DMK model. DMK cannot take ownership of Dravidian world. We believe that the BJP is the only alternative for anyone in this territory to be a Dravidian and to have the confidence of the people. We are taking DMK head on this issue.
So how do you define the BJP’s relationship with Dravidianism?
Dravidianism is about taking everyone along and social justice. It is not supposed to be Brahmin beating, OBC beating or anti-Hindu. Dravidianism is about empowering all sections of society, as has been the case for over 350 years. It is about keeping the land spiritual and nationalist. This is the country of India who spoke of Mother India. Tamil Nadu has produced scholars, researchers, freedom fighters till 1967. Does anyone claim to own Dravidian lands? That is not acceptable.
You recently parted ways with your ally AIADMK in a friendly contest in the urban agency election. How do you evaluate team performance after competing individually?
For any team, the valid test is to let it grow. First, in the urban body elections, the BJP found great opportunities to take the party across the state. Second, we were able to identify the next generation of 5,000 young leaders competing on our team ticket. Third, the team was able to win seats where we had no presence. And fourth, we are now the largest party in terms of vote share. Overall we can say that the goals and parameters that the team set for itself during the selection of the urban organization have been achieved. It’s just the beginning, we’ll just get bigger and stronger from here.
What do you see as the future of AIADMK?
I believe all our political allies should do well. It is in the interest of the state. But as the state president of Tamil Nadu, I am more interested in boosting the BJP. My primary job is to increase the cadre base of the team.
Does Shashikala still have a future in politics? What is your opinion about the possibility of bringing TTV Dhinakaran and Shashikala back to AIADMK?
I see that 85 million people in Tamil Nadu have a future in politics if they want to. Anyone can come and contest the election. I don’t want to comment on specific people. The people of Tamil Nadu like 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 what is happening to AIADMK and their team. This is to call their team leaders. I’m not interested in how the other party tries to solve its internal problems. I am busy managing my own team at TN.
Do you think there should be anti-conversion laws in Tamil Nadu?
We need to understand the difference between anti-proselytizing law and forced conversion law. You cannot force anyone in any way and try to convert them from the religion in which they were born. They are abusing two types: the religion they were born into and the religion they want to enter. Any kind of forced conversion is reprehensible.
What is your goal for the number of seats for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections?
As a team we don’t set goals or numbers. But I will be really happy and take it as 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 MPs of Tamil Nadu who will be elected. The schemes of the center should flow smoothly. So far, TN has received Rs 7.5 lakh crore from the center. The people of Tamil Nadu deserve better governance and I am keen to send a large number of MPs from our state. For the 2026 Assembly elections, I have set a target of 150 MLAs and the bigger the number for 2024, the better for us.
What do you think about the political future of Kamal Hasan?
Many members have left Kamal Hasan’s party and joined another party. People have given him two chances. They later realized that the party was not working in the public interest. The future of politics and MNM is up to him to decide. If you look at the recent urban body elections, there is no place where MNM has come close to the BJP. No one gets votes because of opposition to Kamal Hasan Modiji and BJP. People understand that this is being done only in the interest of politics.
Will BJP be able to get rid of anti-Tamil, pro-Hindi tags?
People do not believe these. There may be groups that try to spread such allegations using their own television channels. It is not converted into votes. People do not believe in tags, but they understand that BJP stands by its policy and people are slowly accepting it.
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