In an interview published on The Debate youtube channel, BJP state president Annamalai spoke at length about his recent statement on clean politics and his vision for the party.
He also addressed the issue of news which said that during a party meeting he had reportedly offered to resign if the central leadership decided to continue the alliance with the AIADMK.
Do Not Want To Comment On An Internal Meeting; No Anger Against AIADMK
Responding to a question as to whether he had really offered to resign as state president if the central leadership of the party decided to continue the alliance with the AIADMK, Annamalai said that he would not like to speak about his comments made in an internal party meeting but he is ready to answer questions about any statements that he has made in the public domain.
To the next question by the interviewer as to whether he was angry with the AIADMK, Annamalai said that he wasn’t angry with the AIADMK but he was concerned about the growth of the BJP and he would always speak up for his party.
He added that politics cannot be done by being angry with people as there are no permanent enemies or friends and gave an example of how C Rajagopalachari's Swatantra Party aligned with Communists and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1967 to defeat the Congress in what was then considered an unthinkable coalition.
Further, he said that the final decision would be taken by the BJP's Parliamentary Board.
Statement On Clean Politics Not Out Of The Blue; Online Transfer Of Funds Was Done For Local Body Polls
Regarding the statement he made regarding clean politics, Annamalai said that he wants the BJP to be a party with a difference, i.e., a party with its own style of politics which does not depend on distribution of cash to get votes.
"It is not as if I woke up one fine morning and decided to speak about clean politics. You can go and check it. I have said it on record that party funds to candidates in the local body elections should be sent via online transfer to their bank accounts and not in cash.
"We did so for all our approximately 5500 candidates."
Problems Of An Alliance
Speaking at length regarding the problems faced in an alliance, he gave examples of the talks that were held during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the 2021 Assembly elections and the 2022 local body elections.
"While during the 2019 elections, talks were held for around five days, in 2021 they were held for approximately 10 days. BJP leaders from outside of Tamil Nadu also participated. These talks were excruciating and the difficult part is that all of these are held just some days before the election, when you should ideally be on the field.
"After talks are finalized, you have just a couple of days time to declare a candidate and start campaigning."
On The Decision To Contest Local Body Polls 2022 Alone
"The discussion with the AIADMK was very short. It lasted about an hour and I told them it is better we contest alone because I cannot be discussing every municipality or panchayat. I cannot be sitting for 15 days to discuss this, I have already seen what happened during the 2019 and 2021 elections. And even if I and Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) decide something it may not be accepted at the local level.
"We were not upset nor did we make any bad statements against the AIADMK."
Friction Between The Two Parties Was Bound To Happen
"All parties want to be strong and get the best seats for themselves. All parties want to win. We were neither satisfied with the number of seats we got in 2021 nor were we satisfied with the seats that were given to us.
"In some areas like Coimbatore, where we have a strong base, we wanted more seats but the AIADMK said we too are focusing there. They requested us to take other seats saying that it is a matter of re-election of EPS as chief minister and so we accepted.
"But I am not angry against the AIADMK. If we were in the place of AIADMK, we too may have done the same."
While 2021 Was AIADMK’s Election, 2024 Is The BJP’s election
"I stand by my oft repeated target of 25 Lok Sabha seats in 2024 and use it to motivate my cadres.
"Now if I get into alliance talks, I am first of all not sure whether I will get these many seats and how long will it take to negotiate the seat-sharing. We should have the time to campaign properly.
"Also we should have a look at how elections have been fought in the past 10 years. While in 2014, the question was whether Tamil Nadu needed Narendra Modi, J Jayalalitha swept the state by making the narrative into 'Modi or Lady' and convincing people that a person from Tamil Nadu had a chance of becoming the Prime Minister.
"In 2019, a narrative was spread in the state by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) that Modi is not coming back to power and it is the Congress that would win and make Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Minister.
"But if you look in 2024, there is no doubt that Modi is going to return to power. So it is not an election of regional parties like the DMK or the AIADMK. It is more about whether you are satisfied with Modi's 10-year tenure and want to give him another five years.
"Therefore, it is quite logical for the BJP to wish to contest more seats in Tamil Nadu as it is primarily our election and not that of the AIADMK."
BJP's Identity Is Lost In An Alliance
"I believe that unless you can make voters recall at least five things your party has done while in power, your party is good for nothing. I want Tamil Nadu voters to recall that BJP rule stands for development, clean and nationalistic politics.
"Look at what has happened to us in Andhra Pradesh. We have been in alliance for such a long time and our vote share has stayed under 2 per cent.
"In an alliance, it is natural to yield to the larger party and lose one's own identity. It also becomes difficult to take our message to the people."
That Modi Doesn't Have A Base In Tamil Nadu Is A Myth
Regarding opinions put forth by some political commentators that Tamil Nadu is a state which usually opposes the BJP and the party could at best win some seats by being in alliance with the AIADMK, Annamalai said that his opinion is that the strength of Modi has not been adequately tested in Tamil Nadu.
"The 2014 result is the best that we have put up till now. In 2014, the BJP and its alliance partner Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) won one seat each, in spite of Jayalalitha's aggressive Modi or Lady campaign. We (our alliance) had a vote share of 18.5 per cent and the DMK was reduced to one of its lowest vote share of 23 per cent.
"I think this statistic is enough to bust the myth that Modi doesn't have a base in Tamil Nadu."
Social Media Politics Has Reached A Level Where It Is Not Very Different From Ground Level Politics
"2016 onwards, negative propaganda was launched against our party on the issue of Jallikattu and the Tuticorin firing with slogans like 'Go Back Modi.'
"But after 2019, you would see that for every Go Back Modi tweet, there are 14 Vanakkam (Welcome) Modi tweets.
"And I believe that social media in Tamil Nadu does reflect the ground reality as according to surveys, 72 per cent of people in the state are active on some form of social media. Even a puncture shop guy watches reels on Instagram while taking a five minute break.
"Earlier, only around 10 per cent of the people were on social media."
The BJP Has Built Grassroots Strength, Its Just That People Are Not Aware Of It
"I know the strength of the party. As the state president, I know where we stand as compared to the DMK and the AIADMK.
"I'll tell you what booth committees of traditional Dravidian parties do. They don't go every month to talk to the voter or explain about the budget.
"They maintain a notebook of voters and see who is residing, who has shifted, whom to give money, whom not to give money because he is a committed voter of the other party etc.
"I myself have seen such notebooks.
"Our party has a booth level programme called 'Illam Selvom Ullam Velvom'. Each booth committee member would visit 25 houses in the first three days of the month and talk to them on the theme of the month. Recently, we had themes like G20 and President Droupadi Murmu's address to Parliament.
"Every Tuesday booth committee members organise meetings on issues of local importance.
"There is a silent revolution happening and we have formed booth committees in 59000 out of 68000 booths.
"I have been building this brick by brick for the last two years to prepare for this scenario. Outsiders may not know but lot of work is silently happening on the ground.
"99 per cent of our party members support the idea of going it alone and 100 per cent of the party supports clean politics. Some leaders do have concerns but with all due respect, the voice of the grassroot workers should be the collective spirit of the party. It is they who work for us in rain and shine. They know better as to what it means to work in an alliance and what kind of friction and restrictions come in due to the alliance."
How Is It That So Many Different Party Members Are Allowed To Speak To Media
"It is because I want people to get exposure. Otherwise how are 25-year old BJP candidates going on to take on four-time and five-time MLAs of the DMK? I am not here to establish an autocracy in the party.
"Now each one has his style of speaking. Some are soft spoken, others are are aggressive and sometimes create controversies."
On The Nature Of Amar Prasad Reddy
"It is wrong to connect Annamalai to everything that Amar Prasad Reddy says. He has got his own opinions. I do not agree with everything he says.
"Just because AIADMK leaders Kadambur Raja, C Ve Shanmugam or KP Munusamy said something against me, do we think that EPS agrees with them. No, right. Then why in the case of Amar Prasad Reddy, the same logic is not used?"
"He is just the head of one of our party wings. There are so many office bearers above him in the party hierarchy.
"I believe it is due to the importance given to him by the media. Many of the channels want him to speak to them because he gives them good TRP. They like his aggressive way of speaking. It is all determined by the market."
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.