BJP filling Hindutva void created by Jayalalithaa’s demise: Annamalai

New Delhi, May 23 (PTI) The BJP is filling the void in Tamil Nadu politics left by the death of AIADMK supremo and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who was a “far superior” Hindutva leader, the BJP’s state chief K Annamalai has said.

In an interaction with PTI Editors here, Annamalai said he is confident that the BJP will get a double-digit vote share in Tamil Nadu in the Lok Sabha elections and emerge as a third major party in the southern state.

The IPS officer-turned-politician said he will not let the BJP play second fiddle to any political party in Tamil Nadu, where there is a great scope for his party to fill the void created by the AIADMK’s “drifting away” from the Hindutva ideology after Jayalalithaa’s passing.

“Now, if you look at it, sir, till Jayalalithaaji was alive, she was a far superior Hindutva leader than anybody in Tamil Nadu. Pre-2014, when you have a party like the BJP and Jayalalithaa as a leader the natural choice of a Hindu voter would be Jayalalithaa, who displayed her Hindu identity openly,” Annamalai said.

He said Jayalalithaa was the first politician in the country, other than BJP leaders, to support the cause of a Ram temple in Ayodhya and enact an anti-conversion law in Tamil Nadu in 2002-03.

“The anti-conversion act, a person who donated liberally to temples, contested elections from Srirangam, took efforts to revive the temple in a big way, and gifted elephants to all the major temples. If you look at her activities as a person, she was a far superior Hindu leader,” Annamalai said.

The Tamil Nadu BJP chief said that after Jayalalithaa’s demise in 2016, the AIADMK drifted away from the Hindutva ideals and joined hands with the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), an outfit considered as the political arm of the banned Islamist organisation Popular Front of India (PFI).

“For the very first time in Tamil Nadu, if Hindus as a group are looking for a party who will protect my temple, naturally it is the BJP. Because, now, the AIADMK has deviated far, far away from who Jayalalithaa was as a person,” Annamalai said.

At the same time, Annamalai said the BJP has supporters in non-Hindu religious groups as well, pointing out that it fielded two candidates from the minority communities in the Lok Sabha elections.

He said, “I would honestly say that the BJP got its space in Tamil Nadu in a big way because of two factors — Modiji coming to power in 2014 and Jayalalithaa Amma’s demise.”

Annamalai said that after the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP will emerge as the third party in Tamil Nadu, where regional parties — the DMK and the AIADMK — have dominated politics with national parties the Congress and the BJP relegated to the sidelines.

“Over a period of time, the DMK and the AIADMK had built this narrative that people living in Chennai are in a better position to govern Tamil Nadu than somebody in Delhi,” he said, adding that the emergence of Modi in national politics had given the BJP an opportunity to reduce that trust deficit.

Annamalai said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s repeated visits to Tamil Nadu, organisation of cultural initiatives such as Kashi Tamil Sangam, Saurashtra Tamil Sangam, placing of the Sengol in the new Parliament building and the Ram temple consecration ceremony helped the BJP reach out to the people of the state.

“Tamil Nadu and Gujarat have a deep symbolic connection because we have a lot of Saurashtrian communities numbering up to 24 lakh. They came in two waves in the 10th century and the 14th century,” he said.

Annamalai exuded confidence that the BJP and its allies will get a “historic mandate” from the southern states in the Lok Sabha elections.

He said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will get a double-digit vote share in Tamil Nadu, sweep Karnataka because of the tie-up with the JD(S), and get a good result in Kerala.

“Telangana will be the biggest surprise of this election. Of the total 17 seats, we had won four (in 2019). I am extremely confident we should be crossing nine. In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP contested six seats in an alliance. It’s a three way alliance there. I tend to believe Andhra will also give us a good number,” Annamalai said.

Annamalai said he would like the BJP leadership to announce all 234 candidates for the 2026 Tamil Nadu assembly elections immediately to groom new leadership in the state.

He added that he would soon embark on a padayatra to visit villages in all the state’s 234 constituencies.

“The yatra is not over. Now, we plan to stay inside villages. The first one, we stayed in Tier II towns. All 234 Tier II towns. So, by 2026, when you see, we want to complete the party on all aspects,” he said.

“In terms of social engineering, in terms of leadership, in terms of building the grassroots level. It’s a long process. Because we believe when we do this, the results will come automatically,” Annamalai added.

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