Chennai, The BJP, which is trying to make a mark in the Dravidian heartland of Tamil Nadu after winning four Assembly seats and rewarding the then party state president, L. Murugan with a Minister of State post in the Modi cabinet, is now facing a factional war.
The issue which was boiling inside against the 'authoritarian' functioning of IPS officer-turned-politician, K. Annamalai, has now surfaced after the party's woman leader Gayatri Raghuraman was suspended for six months by the president.
Gayatri Raghuraman had supported the party minority morcha leader Daisy Sarin, who was verbally abused by another leader, Shiva Surya, an OBC leader and son of Tiruchi Shiva a senior DMK leader and Member of Parliament.
The issue erupted when the verbal abuse of Shiva Surya on Daisy Sarin was leaked on social media and went viral leading to Gayatri Raghuraman extending support to Daisy Sarin. She took to social media platform, Twitter, and had a spat on the issue with the party industrial cell convenor, A. Selvakumar. She claimed that it was Selvakumar who was behind the trolls against her. Soon after the party Chief for Tamil Nadu, K. Annamalai on November 22 issued a statement suspending her from party activities for six months. He also suspended Shiva Surya, the OBC head from participating in party events and later suspended him also.
The issue of suspending two lightweight leaders is seen as superficial, there is more to it than meets the eye. After Annamalai assumed office as the state president of the party, he has been a tough task master and the old style of armed chair politics in the BJP was not allowed.
This made him several enemies and senior leaders of the party are trying to fan up unrest against him as the generational shift to a young leader was not accepted by the old gen leaders in Tamil Nadu.
Annamalai has always flaunted his contacts in Delhi -- read Modi, Shah -- and with such a profile, the local leaders were not in a position to directly attack him. However developments at the middle level with leaders like Gaytri Raghuraman and A. Selvakumar taking on each other on social media and a leader like Shiva Surya, who is a new entrant to the party attacking the woman minority morcha leader, Daisy Charan are more deep rather than what is being seen in the exterior.
Dr. G. Padmanabhan, Director, Socio Economic Development Foundation, think tank based out of Madurai and studying BJP politics of South India while speaking to IANS said: "There is a lobby led by a few Brahmin leaders in the Sangh parivar which is not in good terms with Annamalai. Ever since his advent in the BJP, these leaders were quite unhappy with him and this has led to friction at many places.
"Also the style of functioning of Annamalai is like what he is trained for, a police officer and this has not gone down well with the senior leaders who have over the years toiled at the grassroots to keep the ship floating the murky waters of Tamil Nadu politics dominated totally by Dravidian ideology and Dravidian politics."
Padmanabhan added: "Naturally these leaders will not accept such a generational shift and this is being reflected in the exterior now rather than the issues between small leaders of the party."
If the Brahmin lobby plays spoilsport, then the BJP will be the loser as the support base of the saffron party in Tamil Nadu has always been the Brahmin community, even though it has a miniscule strength.
The RSS is maintaining a neutral stand and it has to be seen as to how the Sangh will play its cards. It is to be noted that the RSS has two pranths (state units) in Tamil Nadu with Dakshin Pranth and Uttar Pranth and the Brahmin community has a major say in the state leadership of the RSS.
The strength of the BJP has always been the dedicated selfless cadres of the RSS and if the Sangh decides to cold shoulder the BJP, then it is curtains for Annamalai and his crop of politics. However, it is too early to predict any such scenario and with the BJP top two leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister, Amit Shah supportive of Annamalai, it has to be seen how much the other leaders will be able to subvert the party from the inside and later take control of it.
With the 2024 elections only a year and half ahead, the BJP has to commence preparations for winning at least a couple of seats with Kanniyakumari and Coimbatore being two areas where the party will concentrate.
It has to be seen how Annamalai and his team wade through these open spats and hostile undercurrents against them orchestrated and engineered by the old war horses of the party and if he can emerge successful in this game of chess, then he will not have a looking back.
Annamalai in the short period as party state president has gained considerable space in Tamil Nadu politics and he is even being touted as the only opposition voice in Tamil Nadu now. With AIADMK facing a split with two factions led by Edappadi K. Palaniswami and O. Panneerselvam fighting against each other and the former interim general secretary, V.K. Sasikala waiting in the wings, the party is a poor image of its old self and the BJP was in the race for occupying that space.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah while addressing party core leaders in a recent meet at Chennai had even told them that the BJP is in a good position in Tamil Nadu to occupy the opposition space but after that things turned out leading to open spats and outrage.
The powerful former Swadeshi Jagaran Manch leader and ideologue, S. Gurumurthy has a major say in the saffron politics of Tamil Nadu and his opinion is valued high in the BJP and RSS circles at the national level.
It has to be seen as to how Gurumurthy, a Brahmin himself will respond in the issues being faced by the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP and saffron politics in Dravidian land has turned interesting and only the days to come will prove as to who gains the upper hand in this game.