Annamalai gets what he wanted, but challenges and risks will be aplenty 

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On March 17, 2023, at an indoor meeting of the party, BJP Tamil Nadu president K. Annamalai reportedly told the office-bearers that he would prefer to resign from his post if the national party continued its alliance with the AIADMK. This came soon after the byelection to the Erode (East) Assembly constituency.

The party functionaries neither denied nor confirmed his views. However, addressing the press a day later, Mr. Annamalai did not deny the media reports. Without being explicit, he said he was firm and clear that this was the path he wanted to pursue. Expressing disappointment over the alleged distribution of “cash for votes” by both the ruling and Opposition parties, he stressed the need to differentiate from them to offer “clean and honest” politics that the people of Tamil Nadu were waiting for.

This incident marked the beginning of his occasional and veiled expressions, highlighting an intent to end the relationship with the AIADMK.

This was punctuated by incidents of open confrontations with the AIADMK, especially over his remarks on late Chief Ministers C.N. Annadurai and Jayalalithaa.

Sources in the BJP say though the remarks of Mr. Annamalai turned out to be the ostensible reason for the AIADMK to break the alliance, its decision was likely motivated by other factors such as protecting its interests for the 2026 Assembly election, lack of interest to share more seats for the BJP in the 2024 election and securing the votes of minorities. Whatever the reasons are, Mr. Annamalai has got what he wanted. His reaction to the AIADMK’s decision was concise, stating that the party’s national leadership would react appropriately.

Mr. Annamalai will, however, realise that the fruition of his want has come with huge responsibilities, risks and challenges. While he can take the lion’s share of credit if the BJP’s performance improves in 2024, the blame will fall squarely on him if the party fares poorly.

His ongoing En Mann En Makkal yatra seems to have given him and a section of the party leaders the confidence that the BJP was gaining momentum. However, only the 2024 Lok Sabha election would reveal the yatra’s impact on the party’s vote-share in the State.

Mr. Annamalai will also have to deal with discordance from within a section of the party over the AIADMK ending ties.

With the BJP now intending to head the NDA in Tamil Nadu by retaining other partners and attracting parties like the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam and the group led by former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, it remains to be seen if Mr. Annamalai will be able to earn the acceptance of its allies as the leader of the alliance within the State.

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