With the demise of M. Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha, BJP got some upper hand in Tamil Nadu, above all Shashikala may split DMK votes. Meanwhile, this is one state where people do not vote for issues, but for the people. People who vote AIADMK earlier voted for MGR and Jaya, while people who vote for DMK voted for Karunanidhi. Modi is the most popular face in BJP but he is a North Indian, that disqualifies him at the outset. Besides, both Karunanidhi and Jaya were experts in developing a cult of personality. These people are revered as Gods but BJP has no such personality in state-level politics. Even as Tamil Nadu continues to be tough terrain for the BJP with the party struggling to mark its presence at the grassroots, the party’s visibility in the media has increased manifold in the past few years. There is no single popular political Tamil TV debate show that goes without a BJP representative these days. Also, several big controversies in the recent past either revolved around BJP or it was the party itself that created it. The national party has also started investing more resources in their campaigns, which may be much more than what DMK and AIADMK have done on social media. BJP has been on a recruitment spree in the state since 2014. In the past years, it has brought to its fold celebrities, bureaucrats, politicians from other parties, and even some individuals with criminal backgrounds. The actor-turned-politician Khushbu’s joining BJP was a significant event. BJP has created some space for themselves and mainly all the veteran politicians are dead so there is no one as strong as them to give a tough fight to BJP in the present time.
The Tamils consider Sri Lanka to be their existential enemy. It doesn’t matter what government is present in Sri Lanka, any friendly overture to Sri Lanka will be seen as anti-Tamil. BJP being a national party cannot afford not to engage with Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka expertly plays the China card whenever the Central government tries to get tough on its human rights violations or on the issue of Tamil fishermen being harassed by the SL Navy. Meanwhile, we cannot ignore the fact that the Dravidian movement has four major qualms. One is atheism, the second one is Socialism, the third is resistance to Hindi, fourth opposition to Brahmins. The BJP is a party that represents the exact antithesis of the politics the state is used to since the Congress party lost power half a century ago in TN. In the Northern and Western parts of India, the Hindus tend to see Muslims and Christians as ‘outsiders’. This politics of ‘us and them’ works well in states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, MP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, etc. but we can’t say this will work in Tamil Nadu too. Historically the south has not faced much religious violence except during the age of Tipu Sultan. Issues like Ram Temple, Conversions, Beef politics, etc will not work here.
In the Cauvery issue, there was a biased stand favouring Karnataka because they had an opportunity to win in the Karnataka Assembly polls. They filed affidavits in Supreme Court hurting the lower riparian State’s rights. Moreover, the Central government is expected to be neutral to the States. But it is practical that they support Karnataka, hence TN opposes BJP. Brilliant anti-BJP propaganda by all parties in TN both in mainstream and social media (it includes false narratives and half baked facts with no counter-strategy from BJP. Some facts are valid as in case of NEET issue). TN media is also ideologically Left and Dravidian school. Media is not professional and ethical in Tamil Nadu.
The most famous Tamil-speaking BJP Leaders in Tamil Nadu are Subramanian Swamy and that is not entirely for good reasons. After him, there are Radhakrishnan and Tamilisai Soundararajan. Above all Nirmala Sitharaman is one of the senior-most Tamil speaking leaders. But I don’t think she will enter state politics in Tamil Nadu. The leaders like Pon Radhakrishnan who was the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Shipping between May 2014 and May 2019. Earlier, he served in the Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways in the NDA government. Tamilisai Soundararajan current Governor of Telangana and Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. She was the National Secretary and Tamil Nadu State Unit President of the BJP prior to this appointment. Both these leaders made a mockery of themselves in the media. The interviews they give are just horrible. They bring down the already bad image of the BJP in Tamil Nadu. I believe state Politicians of BJP should be as much representative of Tamil Nadu as they are representative of BJP. For now, they are just representatives of the BJP in Tamil Nadu.
Officially BJP is not a Hindutva party, they are a secular party. But there is no denying the fact that the policies of BJP are pro Hindu / Hindutva. At the grassroots level, BJP is still portrayed as a Hindutva Party. Tamil Nadu in-spite of being a Hindu majority, doesn’t support Hindutva Ideologies. There is no way Hindutva BJP would come to power in Tamil Nadu. Since there is no prominent communal tension, there have been a few, but they are way too far between that did not cause the Hindus to unite with a Hindu Identity in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu voters don’t believe in a political party that seemingly divides people based on religion.
A single statement made regarding the language issue will make or break BJP’s political ambition in the state. Tamil Identity of Tamil people is one that has the power to bring all Tamils together, a single mistake here will prove to be fatal for BJP. We live in a country where our language (Tamil) is not the majority. Tamil people believe that any move to impose another Language (Hindi in this context) will affect the local language. BJP has to come out and make a statement about why Hindi is recently slowly creeping and finding its way into Central government establishments and Banks in Tamil Nadu. It is believed that removing Tamil in the above-mentioned areas is the first step towards the forceful imposition of Tamil. Tamil people expect BJP to clearly mention that Hindi is not the National Language, not in Tamil Nadu, but in states where Hindi is the major Language. Getting politics at the grassroots level is more important than writing an impressive election manifesto. BJP must capitalize on the ‘Corrupt party’ image of DMK and AIADMK. DMK’s involvement in the 2G scam and the AIADMK’s ex-leaders asset case is to be taken advantage of. If BJP is not involved in any major corruption scams in the current tenure in Centre, it will help BJP a lot in this strategy. BJP should take advantage of the lack of a good political heir to Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi in AIADMK and DMK respectively. One major similarity among almost all Major Political Leaders in Tamil Nadu is that almost all of them were great orators, Annadurai, Karunanidhi was exceptional orators Jayalalitha was not as good as these two but was good in her own right. What MGR lacked in his oratory skills made for with his popularity. One thing none of the four lacked was an unmatched charisma. Such a personality is missing in both the Dravidian Parties. With nepotism running in DMK I don’t see them roping in a new politician to become the face of DMK. But AIADMK might do it. But BJP must act fast to make sure that they find such a person. If BJP succeeds in touching the pulse of TN State, there are definite chances to grab a lot of seats.