TN BJP has a lot of explaining to do

A political party which boasts of the most popular statesman in the world finds itself without any takers in Tamil Nadu. The BJP is the only national party in the State which has failed to rope in any alliance partners for the assembly election scheduled for May 16. The party which boasted in 2014 that it would be the main contender for power in the 2016 assembly election and projected itself as an alternative to the DMK and the AIADMK is in a pathetic state with all its former partners in the National Democratic Alliance dumping the party and aligning with other outfits.

The Tamil Nadu BJP leadership has a lot to explain to the people.

In early January when L Ganeshan, a leader in Tamil Nadu BJP, was asked about the party’s prospects for the upcoming assembly election. “Thai maasam varattum. Thai piranthal vazhi pirakkum,” he replied. (Let’s wait for the Tamil month of Thai. Once Thai comes, a way too will come). The month of Thai is considered as the auspicious period to launch all new endeavors. The month began on January 21 and concluded on February 19. Nothing happened in the BJP camp other than the usual political statements.

In the last week of February, the same question was put to Ganeshan. “Thai month is over. We are entering March. Has the BJP made any progress in its efforts to cobble up a front for the election?” Ganeshan was quick to reply. “We will march ahead from the month of March.”

The party cadre blames the present leadership of the party for this poor state of affairs. “Though the party has failed to make it to the top, these leaders have seen to it that their “personal stock” has shot up through the roof. They feel it would be better if the BJP remains like this,” said a cadre who joined the party when it was launched. He wanted a thorough probe to find out how the leaders ensured that the BJP did not grow in Tamil Nadu.

The alliance for the 2014 Lok Sabha election was formed because of political analysts like Tamilaruvi Manian who played a significant role in bringing together the maverick Vaiko and Vijayakant of the DMDK. The 2014 alliance collapsed within months after the Lok Sabha election.

Leaders of many parties blamed the BJP for the disintegration of the NDA in Tamil Nadu. “They failed to convene a single meeting after the Lok Sabha election. I waited for more than 18 months to announce my decision to come out of the NDA,” said Easwaran of the Kongunadu Kazhagam, an alliance partner who was the NDA candidate from Erode in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Even as all partners left the BJP and went after greener pasture, leaders of the BJP failed to see the writing on the wall and looked the other way.

In December 2015, Amit Shah had asked the Tamil Nadu BJP leaders to enroll at least 100 new members in each of the 60,000 booths in the State so that by the 2016 assembly election the party would have 6 million new members. Tamil Nadu BJP leaders claim that they enrolled 4.5 million new members by August 2015 and stopped admitting new members. The 2016 assembly election results will prove the hollowness of the claim by the local leadership.

Veteran party members have started doubting the integrity of the Tamil Nadu BJP leaders. “We feel that the present leadership is not interested in strengthening the party in Tamil Nadu. If more and more people join the BJP, the old guard may have to make way for the new breed of leaders. It is surprising to see that an organizational secretary continues in his position even after 12 years of successive failures,” said this active member.

The incompetence of BJP leaders was in full display in the Saratkumar episode. Saratkumar, a superstar in Tamil film industry who heads the All India Samatwa Katchi, an outfit of the Nadar community, expressed his decision to be with the BJP-led alliance for the 2016 election. “I waited for more than a month. Not a single leader from the BJP contacted me. I was asked by Jayalalithaa to join her front,” said Saratkumar.

Though the central leadership of the BJP had deputed union ministers Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Piyush Goyal, and Prakash Javadekar in quick succession to strengthen the party in Tamil Nadu, they could not do much. P. Muraleedhar Rao, the man in charge of Tamil Nadu has proved many times that he is not fit for the job. “He does not know the State and has not understood the people properly,” said a BJP leader from Cuddalore district.

The only person with popular appeal in Tamil Nadu is Dr. Subramanian Swamy. But the internal dynamics of the party is such that he has not been allowed anywhere near Kamalalayam, the Tamil Nadu BJP head quarters. But Swamy remains the most sought after person in the State because of his relentless struggles for the Hindutva causes. It was Swamy who fought for the Ram Setu against the UPA government and saw to it that the DMK’s plan to demolish the Setu was put on hold by the Supreme Court. There were suggestions, nay demands, from many party workers to project Swamy as the chief ministerial candidate. But for reasons best known only to the state leaders, that proposal was not taken up seriously.

The Congress which was a political untouchable during the 2014 Lok Sabha election has been accepted by the DMK as an ally for the Assembly election. But the BJP which was the most sought after party in 2014 has ended up as an outfit sans friends, allies, and partners. The Tamil Nadu BJP leadership has a lot to explain to the people.