The BJP is not an “alternative pole in Tamil Nadu politics”. His local election results show why

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FFor the past two decades or so, the clarion call of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Tamil Nadu has been: “Tamarai Malarum”, meaning the ‘Lotus will bloom’. Now, soon after the local state body elections, there has been a shrill cacophony that the lotus has blossomed in Tamil Nadu in a big way. This was vaunted ad nauseam by the policeman who became party chairman, K. Annamalai. The basis of his claim is that the BJP became the third largest political party in the state because it won 5.4% of the vote, pushing Congress, which secured 3.31%, in fourth place. Congress countered by saying that while the BJP contested 5,594 seats, Congress only contested 1,370 seats.

This outing reminds me of a humorous episode from my college days in my hometown Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu. One evening, as I was walking home, I came across two young boys who were fighting, their clothes torn and their faces bruised. After separating them, I learned that the argument was about who was smarter. Their grade sheet showed that one did better in math while the other did in physics. Impressed, I said that both were equally intelligent. What were their grades? Out of 100, the first boy got 5 in Maths and 3 in Physics; the other, just the opposite.

The Hindu Diary analysis of elections in 20 municipalities (excluding Greater Chennai) shows that the BJP contested 935 seats, won 21 (strike rate 2.3%) and lost 822 seats (88 %). In the three major municipal corporations – Greater Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai – the BJP has been swept away. In Coimbatore, he contested 98 out of 100 wards and made a blank, although the local MP was from the party. In Madurai, the party contested 99 out of 100 wards and won in one. Also in Greater Chennai, the party ran in all 200 wards and won only one seat, that too on the basis of pure caste in the Brahmin-dominated ward of West Mambalam, as the admitted the counselor herself. The BJP did not get a single vote in any ward of Jolarpet Municipality of Tirupattur District.


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What the numbers really tell us

It seems that even the upper echelons of the BJP have also fallen in love with the story that the “lotus has blossomed”. Seshadri Chari recently wrote an article in ThePrint announcing the “outstanding performance” of the BJP. He highlighted the BJP’s “victory” in numbers – 22 out of 1,374 seats in the company wards, 56 out of 2,843 seats in the municipal wards and 230 out of 7,621 seats in the city panchayat. This makes 308 seats out of a total of 12,838 seats, a meager share of 2.4%. Calling it a “historic victory which should be cause for concern for the Dravidian forces” and saying that “the BJP has shown that it can emerge as an alternative pole in Tamil Nadu politics and wean the state from politics caste-based and big-screen leadership,” is indeed bizarre.

The fact is that 199 of the 308 seats (about 65%) came from a single district – Kanyakumari, to which I belong. This is only slightly higher than the poll result of 2011, when the BJP won 175 out of 226 seats. Even here, the BJP has not always been successful. In the Nagercoil Municipal Corporation, for example, there won only 11 out of 52 rooms. This was a big setback for the party as it had captured the municipality in 2011 and its candidate was the president of the municipality and the incumbent Nagercoil MP. Anyway, Annamalai had no role to play in the district where the Hindu Munnani (the front of the RSS in Tamil Nadu) and the BJP had a stronghold long before him. In fact, his immaturity and his campaign of hatred against the Christian community, whose population is almost the same as that of the Hindus in the district, played a role in the poor performance of the party.

In the rest of Tamil Nadu’s 37 districts, the BJP won only 109 seats and ended up with zero wins in 10 of them. Looking at the big picture, a total of 12,818 wards ran for election. Of these, the DMK, with 7,701 wins, won 60.08% of the halls. AIADMK won 2,008, or 15.7% of the districts. Congress ranked third with a winning percentage of 4.62 with 592 districts. The BJP is fourth as an individual party with a winning percentage of 2.4. And if the independents are considered as a whole, they take third place, pushing Congress into fourth and the BJP into fifth.

Incidentally, the “alternative pole in Tamil Nadu politics”, as Chari claims, had only won two municipalities in the 2011 local elections, but none in 2022. In 2011, the BJP won a total of 272 seats , which have now slightly disappeared. up to 308 with the vote share up a meager 0.63 percent.


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A small “victory” shown as big

Political analysts are of the opinion that the BJP is far from third. It only tries to set a narrative to overshadow the magnitude of the DMK victory. A veteran journalist from Tamil Nadu, Tharasu Shyam, Recount India time“It’s laughable to see a national party projecting itself as the third biggest party in TN based on local urban poll results. The wide gap between the second winning party (AIADMK) and the BJP itself reveals where in is the latter.The strike rate of the party is around 2.2%, which is similar to 2011. Where is the growth of the BJP?

The BJP’s small victory, however, was not achieved through a clean fight. He appealed to the lowest instincts of hard-core castes and communal elements and open incentives. In Tamil Nadu, their targets were Christians and the institutions they run. After the elections, glaring cases were reported horse trade in Kanyakumari district, where the BJP is desperate to retain its relevance and prominence. The municipality of Nagercoil and the Town Panchayat of Therku Thamaraikulam are typical examples.

The BJP lotus cannot flourish in the pool of lies. But that’s what he seems to believe. It reminds us of the famous saying on “The Big Lie”: “If you tell a big enough lie and repeat it over and over, people will eventually believe it.” But that can only happen in autocracies and not in democracies, which thankfully India still is.

MG Devasahayam is a retired IAS officer and President of People-First. He also served in the Indian Army. Views are personal.

(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)

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