Annamalai and the art of political gymnastics

Annamalai’s willingness to change stances, stay silent when needed, and readiness to pounce on opportunities make him a politician to watch out for.
K Annamalai
K AnnamalaiIllustration by Shambhavi Thakur

Annamalai Kuppusamy, the Tamil face of India’s largest Hindu nationalist party, once had a reputation in Karnataka as a super-cop who didn’t hesitate to book Hindutva vigilantes.

In January 2018, the communally sensitive district of Chikkamagaluru was simmering with tension after right-wing extremists spread propaganda that a teenaged Hindu teen had been harassed to death by her alleged Muslim lover. Annamalai, who was then the Superintendent of Police (SP), didn’t let the pressure get to his men and their investigation threw up evidence that flipped the case on its head. They found a suicide note written by the young woman stating that she had been harassed by Bajrang Dal activists. This discovery was followed by an instant police crackdown.

The same supercop appeared to have transformed entirely when another suicide unfolded in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu in the year 2022.

In this deep profile, Shabbir Ahmed and Prajwal Bhat look at Annamalai's changing stances, his ambitions, and why he's a politician to watch out for.

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