“BJP still represents a unified Tamil Nadu”
Prime Minister Modi is very popular in Tamil Nadu; AIADMK is a healthy alliance partner, says BJP state president
Reiterating that the BJP does not approve the creation of a Kongu Nadu by branching off west from Tamil Nadu, the party’s state chairman, K. Annamalai, said he was defending a “unified Tamil Nadu”. In an interview, he denied that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was unpopular in the state, and said it would be a direct fight between the BJP and the DMK in 2026. Excerpts edited:
You said that the creation of a Kongu Nadu was not the request of the BJP. Will this demand be revived in the future?
A party represents the aspirations of the people. The BJP (Tamil Nadu) represents the aspirations of the people of Tamil Nadu. As for Kongu Nadu, if you look at the region, there has never been a request for a separate state from the people of the region. But you have to understand that Kongu Nadu has always been a social identity. There is nothing wrong with people using the term Kongu Nadu. You have to look at the context in which it was used – for seven [Union] Ministers, a social identity has been given: Bundelkand, Konkan Maharashtra, Purvanchal and Kongu Nadu. The central government, especially the prime minister’s office, only used it as a social identity. We have always stood for a unified Tamil Nadu. This question is never asked of other parties. If there is an aspiration of people, I can react. When there is no demand, why should I respond?
You recently said that the BJP is aiming for 150 Assembly seats in 2026. How do you plan to get there?
Tamil Nadu’s policy is negative right now. He is now between the DMK and the BJP. Whatever the policy pursued by the DMK, it is against [Prime Minister] Modi I have, the central government and the BJP. They don’t do anything else [except saying] “We don’t want a NEET, a new education policy, a three-language formula, we don’t want this, that…” Naturally, the BJP as a party is obliged to explain to people that “NEET and the formula in three languages are good for you. No one imposes Hindi on Tamil Nadu ‘. When we clarify, defend and talk to people, the audience says “okay… these guys are different”.
Can a simple DMK executive aspire to become a minister as is the case in our party? You have generation after generation of family members getting positions. There are now three chief ministers: Deputy Stalin, Udhayanidhi Stalin and Mr. Stalin’s son-in-law. They put the photo of Udhayanidhi next to Periyar. Is this the social justice they are talking about?
In Tamil Nadu, we have a communication problem. We are not able to fully convert the popularity of the Prime Minister into votes because we have structural problems. We have problems with the stand. We sort them.
But there is a perception that the Prime Minister is very unpopular in the state …
The Prime Minister is very popular. I don’t trust what some news channels are showing about it. I trust the opinions of ordinary people. When he [Modi] comes to Coimbatore, why are two lakhs showing up? We will work aggressively to ensure its popularity is converted into votes. 2019 [Lok Sabha election] was a bad year for BJP in Tamil Nadu, because when the whole country celebrated Modi I havethe direction of, they [DMK] were able to generate a wave of artificial negativity against him, simply by having three or four news channels. Over the past two years, we’ve done a lot of groundwork. I can say with confidence that in 2026 we will form the government.
You say it will be the DMK against the BJP. What about AIADMK?
AIADMK is a very good friend. They are our alliance partner. They are in opposition. We have mutual respect. The main opposition is the AIADMK in terms of numbers. But the fight is between the DMK and the BJP in open space, because it is narrative politics at stake. The DMK attacks our schemas; he is spreading lies about what the Prime Minister is doing. With all due respect to AIADMK, our principles match, they are our partners. But in narrative politics, you go to social networks… what are they talking about? They wonder if they want the DMK or the BJP. The fight is therefore between the two of us. AIADMK and BJP agree on principles – we support the [abrogation of] Article 370, agricultural laws and [abolition of] triple talaq. They do not agree with us on the formula in three languages, NEET … it is a healthy alliance. But this is a direct fight between the DMK and the BJP.
Do you think VK Sasikala’s movements could have an impact on AIADMK?
We are a responsible national party that follows the structure and process of a party. For AIADMK, there is a general council which elected two leaders – OPS [O. Panneerselvam] and EPS [Edappadi K. Palaniswami]. Ms. Sasikala is a natural person. We don’t want to comment on individuals in Tamil Nadu. It is also purely their internal problem. EPS also did a good job as chief minister. Purely, it was against the power, otherwise we would have won this election . We wish AIADMK good luck, it is a healthy alliance.
What do you think of the efforts of the HR&CE department to reclaim the temple grounds and renovate the temples?
Whatever land has been taken from them [temples] during the period 2001-11 when the DMK was in power, they [DMK] make it. I wish them good luck. People will not go through this drama. People know the character of DMK, how [DMK] people at the local level behave. The DMK’s appeasement policy and doing these things here and there will not work.
DMK’s use of the word ‘Ondriya arasu‘ [Union government] seems to annoy your party. Why?
If you translate ‘Ondriya arasu‘as the Union government, that’s fine with me. But they [DMK] do not translate it. If you look at the context in which other ministers are talking about it, I don’t agree. The Minister of Finance explains that different states need to be represented on the GST Council on the basis of the [geographic] area it covers. Then look at the context where they say “Tamil Nadu is finally free from the clutches of the Center”. That is why we oppose the use of ‘Ondriya arasu‘. If the chief minister [Mr. Stalin] specifies tomorrow that “we are only translating”, we have no problem. Then the DMK IT wing shared a post from Annadurai [talking] about Dravidian nadu. It is in this context that we oppose it.
What will be the position of the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP on the Mekedatu issue, if the Union government, in the future, allows Karnataka to build the dam?
In 2017, when the issue arose, the Supreme Court overturned it, declaring that without the consent of the lower riparian states, no one can build a dam. The Union’s water resources ministry has made it clear that the dam will not be built. Karnataka can choose to be in politics, even if there is a BJP government there. Tamil Nadu BJP is against the dam.
You said in 2020 that the number of rural students who took medical courses in Tamil Nadu was due to NEETs, compared to previous years. But isn’t that also because of the 7.5% reservation put in place last year?
Between 2006 and 2016, during the pre-NEET years, the average number of average rural Tamil students admitted to medicine was 19 per year. In 2016-18 we had a problem due to translation issues [in the question papers]. The year 2020 was ideal because Tamil Nadu opted for the revision of the program. [Even] Without the 7.5% reservation, it was better than 19 places. Leave him [Justice] AK Rajan Committee does not engage in selective reading of the data, which it did using data from 2016, 2017 and 2018. All experts agree that in 2020 the program is here. [for NEET]. Students from Tamil Nadu were in the top 10; 50% of Tamil students who took NEET passed the exam – the highest in its history.