BJP scores 0 in Tamil Nadu, Annamalai loses to DMK’s Rajkumar

Coimbatore, an industrial hub and a communally sensitive area, has proven challenging for the BJP to secure a victory on its own in Lok Sabha elections.
K Annamalai
K Annamalai
Written by:

Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president K Annamalai, who contested from the Coimbatore Lok Sabha constituency, lost to Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) Ganapathy Rajkumar by a margin of over 1,14,000 votes. While Rajkumar polled 5,53,470 votes, Annamalai polled 4,39,168 votes, as per the latest ECI data. All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (AIADMK) Singai Ramachandran was placed third with 2.2 lakh votes.

Coimbatore, which is considered a bastion of the AIADMK, witnessed a fierce battle in this Lok Sabha election between the Dravidian parties and the BJP, with the saffron party’s high command deciding to field former IPS officer turned politician K Annamalai from this seat.

Though Annamalai was reluctant to contest the Lok Sabha election, he gave in due to pressure from the BJP high command, which had made the decision based on two factors: one, to field popular faces who can attract voters, and two, to increase its vote share in a state that has been elusive to the party. The BJP was banking on Annamalai’s popularity and the caste factor, as he belongs to the socially and economically powerful Kongu Vellala Gounder community, which is dominant in the western regions of Tamil Nadu.

Coimbatore, an industrial hub and a communally sensitive area, has proven challenging for the BJP to secure a victory on its own in Lok Sabha elections. In 2019, the seat was won by CPI(M)’s CP Natarajan. In 2014, it went to the AIADMK. The BJP’s CP Radhakrishnan secured victories in 1998 and 1999, but only after forging alliances with the AIADMK and DMK respectively. In the 2014 and 2019 elections, Radhakrishnan garnered 3.8 lakh and 3.9 lakh votes respectively, but couldn’t cross the finishing line.

Coimbatore has witnessed one of the worst communal politics that led to clashes in the 90’s. The murder of a traffic constable in November 1997 triggered communal riots in which 18 Muslims were killed. The city also witnessed a serial blast executed by banned fundamentalist organisation Al-Ummah at 11 places, killing 58 people and leaving 200 injured. These incidents changed the political landscape of Coimbatore and made the constituency prone to politics of communal polarisation.

Sensing a tough competition and the party’s prestige at stake, the DMK decided to contest from the Coimbatore constituency after 28 years, having last won it in 1996. Historically, the DMK had allocated this constituency to its allies CPI and the CPI(M). A CPI(M) leader told TNM that Chief Minister MK Stalin was keen on fielding a DMK candidate against Annamalai. Former Mayor of Coimbatore Ganapathy Rajkumar, who joined the DMK in 2020, was fielded to take on the BJP heavyweight. 

The decision to field Rajkumar was influenced by the backing he received from former DMK minister V Senthil Balaji, who was in charge of Coimbatore and is now in jail after being arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with a 2015 money laundering case. Both Senthil Balaji and Rajkumar also hail from the Kongu Vellala Gounder caste. In the absence of Senthil Balaji, Tamil Nadu Industries Minister and DMK IT wing chief TRB Rajaa was deputed to oversee election management in Coimbatore.

Ganapathy Rajkumar said people voted for the DMK because of their faith in the party. “Let’s reopen the factories that were shut down due to GST implementation by the BJP. People’s demands for the development of the city, including airport expansion, new roads and flyovers will also be taken up. The railway station will also be expanded,” he said while speaking to the media.

The AIADMK, which was in alliance with the BJP, walked out of the NDA in September 2023 after a public spat with Annamalai over his remarks on AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa. Though there were several attempts by the BJP top brass for a patch-up, the AIADMK, led by Edappadi K Palanisamy, remained defiant.

The AIADMK had fielded Singai Ramachandran, who belongs to the dominant Naidu caste that is spread out across the constituency. Ramachandran is backed by the AIADMK’s strongman from western Tamil Nadu, SP Velumani.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute