Annamalai’s appointment is a deviation from BJP’s norms of usually placing someone with years of organisational experience to lead the state unit.

K AnnamalaiPTI
news Politics Friday, July 16, 2021 - 11:41

“Annamalai's appointment was not due to the elevation of Murugan as Union Minister but the other way around,” a source close to the BJP National Secretary BL Santosh told TNM. When K Annamalai resigned from service, from his last posting as Deputy Commissioner of Police (South), Bengaluru, it was after elaborate discussions with BL Santhosh and the BJP senior leader had long-term plans for Annamalai, added the source. So when the Union Cabinet was to be expanded, inducting new faces from across the country, there was a discussion on who from Tamil Nadu must be picked. Two names that came up were that of BJP Chief L Murugan and K Annamalai.

The former IPS officer from Karur was suitable for Santhosh’s plans for Tamil Nadu in many ways, insiders say. A young educated man with a reputation for being ‘tough’ as a police officer, a self professed nationalist and a man hailing from an OBC community ticked most boxes on the BJP’s list for its image makeover in Tamil Nadu where the party was called a Brahmin party for decades, an impediment for their growth. But that was not all. Annamalai's appoitnment as party chief in the state was more than just about this, the high command believes they need a young person to finish off the factionalism in the party.

When BL Santhosh was in charge of the BJP in south India as Joint General Secretary from 2014 to 2019, he handled three elections. One observation he took away is that the party is ridden with multiple factions, each pulling the other down, another source in BJP Tamil Nadu told TNM. Santhosh reportedly concluded that new blood is needed to break this pattern which is why he had chosen L Murugan to lead the party in March, 2020

Factions led by former Union Minister of State Pon Radhakrishnan, former BJP state president CP Radhakrishnan, senior leader La Ganesan and former MLA H Raja have been at constant loggerheads with each other, making it difficult to appoint anyone from any of the camps without antagonizing the other. This necessitated an outsider to take charge.

Till the time Tamilisai Soundararajan was the state president, she struck a delicate balance by maintaining a quota for all factions for whatever appointment, like a compromise formula, the source said. Several secretaries were appointed from all camps including people loyal to her to keep everyone happy. But this formula too became counter productive with the secretaries opposing many decisions taken by her. Appointing any of the seniors in the party would lead to the same situation.

While Annamalai’s appointment is a deviation from BJP’s norms of usually placing someone with years of organisational experience to lead the state unit, it has been done with the intent of creating leaders for the next 10 to 15 years. To break the existing way of functioning, Annamalai, a source said, has been told to not accommodate or encourage any factions. And with BL Santhosh firmly standing by Annamalai, leaders will be wary of putting up resistance, the source added. Despite this, it is likely that he will face resistance from within.

BJP’s intention to focus on the Kongu region also is woven into the elevations announced recently. Annamalai hails from the Gounder community which is in large numbers in the Kongu region. He can be groomed to challenge the former CM Edapaddi Palaniswami who is seen as a leader of the community.

While Murugan did a decent job in winning four seats in the Assembly elections, BL Santhosh believed that his potential to energise the party had touched a ceiling, said a BJP source in Delhi. Promoting him to the Union Minister of State, will help the party win over more communities, the BJP believes. It also paves the way for Annamalai to revitalise the party in the state. Annamalai’s raw aggression can be of more use as the state chief than as a Union Minister, the source added. 

Read: With L Murugan's inclusion in Union Cabinet, BJP looks at a long term plan in Tamil Nadu

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