For decades, BJP made no real attempts to expand its footprint in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. While Tamil Nadu descended in Dravidian politics since the 1950s, Kerala kept oscillating between the Communist alliance and Congress-Islamic parties alliance. After the unexpected single-party majority in the 2014 general election, the saffron party started expanding throughout the length and breadth of the country and fought the 2016 assembly election in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
In the 2016 assembly election, the party performed better than expected in both the states and bagged 2.86 per cent and 10.6 per cent votes in Tamil Nadu and Kerala respectively. In the 2021 general election, the party is making efforts to make major inroads in both the states, with Tamil Nadu- where there is a power vacuum after the death of Jayalalitha- being a major focus.
Jayalalitha led AIADMK was the centre-right alternative in the politics of Tamil Nadu, although both parties of the state operate within the ideological umbrella of Dravidianism. After the death of Jayalalitha, there is now no popular leader who can sail the party. Therefore, BJP plans to fill this gap and become a centre-right alternative, but a non-Dravidian one.
Given the fact 87.6 per cent of Tamil Nadu’s population is Hindu and the majority of them are very Dharmic people, there is a vast ground for Hindutva politics in the state. Therefore, the party had planned Vel Yatra- on the lines of Rath Yatra taken by L K Advani- in the honour of Bhagwan Murugan from November 6. The Yatra was expected to start from Tiruttani temple in the north of Tamil Nadu and culminate at Tiruchendur temple in the south, covering six abodes of Bhagwan Murugan (For those who are not aware- Kartikeya, son of Shiva and Parvathi, is worshipped as Bhagwan Murugan in South India and Southeast Asia).
However, the AIADMK government has put several restrictions and not allowed the Yatra. BJP leaders, led by state unit chief L Murugan, courted protest and were arrested by the government. The national president of the BJPs Mahila Morcha, Vanathi Srinivasan, said that they will face cases if the government continues to book leaders.
In the last few months, BJP has increased activity in the state. Last month Khusbhu Sundar, one of the most popular actresses of Tamil Cinema, joined BJP after she quit Congress on the grounds of being suppressed by the high command of the party. “A few elements seated at the higher level in the party, people who have no connectivity with the ground reality or public recognition are dictating terms and people like me who wanted to work for the party sincerely, are being pushed and suppressed,” she said.
Later she was arrested by the Tamil Nadu Police when she was going to Chidambaram from Chennai to protest against VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan for his statements against women.
When your journey is cut short by force, you know you are on right track. I question @AIADMKOfficial n #CM of TN @EPSTamilNadu avl, why we are denied of our democratic right for a peaceful protest when other parties are given the permission to do the same? Why this partiality?
— KhushbuSundar ❤️ (@khushsundar) October 27, 2020
Sundar enjoys popularity among the women of Tamil Nadu and her entry is a big gain for BJP. Moreover, BJP is roping in M K Alagiri, elder son of Karunanidhi, who is set to float a political outfit Kalaignar DMK (KDMK) after being sidelined by his younger brother since the death of his father. “Talks have been happening for long. It would be a strong reply to M K Stalin (DMK chief and younger brother of Alagiri) who sidelined his elder brother in the party and the family. And for Alagiri, it is an opportunity… may be the last opportunity. His business may face more troubles if DMK wins the Assembly polls,” said a BJP leader.
BJP can fill the gap of non-Dravidian politics in Tamil Nadu. With the emergence of scientific evidence against Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) in the last few years, many Tamilians have started rejecting it and want an alternative. The saffron party is set to provide Hindutva alternative to the toxic Dravidian politics in the state. Amit Shah is set to visit the state on November 21 to address the BJP leaders and workers in the state.