As BJP Scores 0 in Tamil Nadu, Where Does Annamalai Go From Here?

It seems likely that Annamalai would need to be replaced with someone who has a conciliatory approach toward allies.

4 min read

The narrative in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections was that Tamil Nadu was going to witness a great leap away from the two well-entrenched Dravidian parties – DMK and AIADMK – and towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

BJP state president K Annamalai was on every national TV channel claiming that the party would receive a 25% vote share, along with a dramatic increase in its seat share, too.

But, in reality, the results on 4 June shot a massive hole in the BJP's claim of emerging as an alternative to the DMK, with the latter sweeping all 39 seats (and Puducherry). The Annamalai-led party drew a blank – and could hardly gather 11% vote share. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), meanwhile, ended up with around 18% of the votes.

The AIADMK, along with its alliance partner DMDK, was also reduced to zero seats and polled only 23% of the votes.


Not Many Bright Spots in BJP's Performance 

In the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP heavily focused on Tamil Nadu.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the state over 10 times in the last five months and conducted roadshows in Coimbatore and Chennai, besides public meetings in several other constituencies.

However, none of the efforts seem to have paid off.

The DMK-led INDIA alliance's vote share came down from 46.97 percent in 2024 when compared to 53.15 per cent in the 2019 election. But even as the alliance lost roughly around 6 percentage points in vote share, the split in the opposition votes (between AIADMK and BJP) enabled them to romp home.

A case in point is the Coimbatore Lok Sabha constituency where state BJP chief K Annamalai polled over 4.5 lakh votes and lost to a little-known DMK candidate (Ganapathi P Rajkumar) by a margin of 1.18 lakh votes.

Other senior leaders from the BJP, including Union Minister L Murugan, former Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan, and former Governor Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan too lost badly.

It is really hard to find too many bright spots in the BJP's performance in Tamil Nadu. The vote share of the party increasing from 3.66% in 2019 to 11% in 2024 is no doubt a saving grace. But this could also be because, unlike in the past where they would contest five or six seats in the alliance that they were a part of, the party contested more than 20 seats on its own symbol this time.

The BJP alliance did finish in second place in 10 constituencies, but then the NDA alliance in 2014 also achieved a similar result with an almost identical vote share.

Should the AIADMK & BJP Have Fought Together? 

Last year, the BJP, almost entirely on the prodding of Annamalai, had pushed out the AIADMK from its alliance. Though it was the AIADMK that walked away, it was the unrelenting barbs against the party and its leaders by Annamalai that forced it to leave.

The AIADMK had gone as far as publicly spouting the slogan, "Modi for the Centre and Edappadi (former chief minister and AIADMK leader Edappadi Palaniswamy) for the state."

Yet, they were subjected to humiliation by Annamalai, who even to the level of targeting former Chief Minister Late J Jayalalithaa, who is revered by AIADMK cadres.

After the alliance was severed, the writing was on the wall to all observers except Annamalai.

Having gotten on board the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which has around 5% vote share, expelled AIADMK leader O Paneerselvam and AMMK's TTV Dhinakaran, and a few rich industrialists who run caste-based parties, the BJP hoped they could make a mark in the elections.

At the very least, their target was to seriously dent the AIADMK and emerge as the main Opposition to the DMK in the state.

In the elections, the combined tally of the AIADMK and BJP alliances was more than the winning margin of the DMK alliance in nearly 13 seats.

Assuming that there may not have been a complete vote transfer had they fought together, it is fairly clear that the BJP and the AIADMK could have won in at least 10 seats.

The AIADMK erred in putting up unknown candidates in almost all the seats it contested. This bizarre decision was believed to have helped the BJP in making a big impact in the state. That, too, seemed to have little effect.


Where Does the BJP Go From Here?

There will be serious questions asked of K Annamalai. It seems very likely that sooner rather than later, he would need to be replaced with someone who has a more conciliatory approach towards allies.

Though there is anti-incumbency against MK Stalin's DMK, the 2026 Assembly elections are two years away. This is enough time for the DMK to win back its lost vote share.

But in any event, it is clear that if the AIADMK and the BJP do not ally together, they have little chance of taking on the DMK, which always fights in a large alliance with the Congress, CPI, CPM, MDMK, VCK, and a host of smaller outfits.

With the minority votes almost entirely with the DMK and a section of the Dalit votes too, it will be near impossible for either the AIADMK or the BJP to take on such a formidable alliance all alone.

A lot also depends on how the BJP will be perceived in 2026 based on the performance of the central government.

For the AIADMK and the BJP in Tamil Nadu, the writing on the wall is clear. They need to hang together to try to win or they shall hang separately.

But overall, the BJP has plenty to introspect, though the increase in vote share will give them some solace. There is still some distance to go if they wish to become the principal opposition party to the DMK in the State.

The party also needs to take some hard decisions, especially on its state leadership.

(Sumanth C Raman is a television anchor and political analyst. He tweets @sumanthraman. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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