Opportunity in adversity: How DMK arresting its leaders in Tamil Nadu is helping BJP gain political mileage

The BJP high command termed the arrests of its functionaries “brutal and irrational”; law will take its course, says DMK.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Oct 27, 2023 | 1:32 PMUpdatedOct 27, 2023 | 2:53 PM

Opportunity in adversity: How DMK arresting its leaders in Tamil Nadu is helping BJP gain political mileage

The recent arrest of over a dozen BJP functionaries in Tamil Nadu has elicited mixed reactions, with some political analysts wondering if the DMK-led government is overreacting — and giving the saffron party the political mileage that it craves.

Others don’t see the arrests as significantly impacting politics in the state.

Not surprisingly, however, the BJP has sought to capitalise on the arrests, with the party’s central leadership sending a high-powered team to assess the situation in the state and submit a report.

Soon after the arrests of 13 BJP functionaries, including second-line leaders Amar Prasad Reddy and Vivian Bhaskaran, on 21 October, BJP state president K Annamalai also ramped up the rhetoric, saying he welcomed the detention and added that it was the only way they (the arrested functionaries) could emerge as leaders.

Political analysts in the state felt the arrests of Reddy and Bhaskaran — considered to be the power centres of the state BJP unit — threw a direct challenge at Annamalai and the BJP was now trying to create a sympathy wave to reap political advantage.

On 5 October, Annamalai — post the first meeting with party functionaries after the AIADMK had left the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) —  told reporters that the 2024 general election in the state would be a contest between the saffron party and the DMK.

The yatra resumes

Meanwhile, Annamalai resumed the third phase of his statewide yatra — called ‘En Mann, En Makkal’ (My Soil, My People) — on 16 October from Avinashi, the heart of the Kongu belt.

The third leg would cover Bhavani, Anthiyur, Bhavanisagar, Gobichettipalayam, Palladam, Sulur, Erode, Modakurichi, Namakkal, Tiruchengode, Rasipuram, and his native Karur, before winding up at Tiruchi.

Union Minister for Commerce, Industry, Textiles, Consumer Affairs, and Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal inaugurated the yatra and termed Annamalai the future of Tamil Nadu and the impact of his yatra would be seen in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The Union minister also accused the DMK government of being the most corrupt one in the country.

The DMK second-line leaders, who often responded to Annamalai and BJP’s political accusations, went into silent mode.

Related: Police remove BJP flagpole on govt land near Annamalai’s house

Annamalai’s trusted lieutenant 

C Lakshmanan, a BJP functionary, told South First that Amar Prasad Reddy, the trusted lieutenant of Annamalai, was given full charge of the third phase of the yatra in Karur, the home district of the BJP president.

Annamalai, a former IPS officer, was also particular about building his clout in the Gounder community to keep a “check” on AIADMK heavyweights and community members Edappadi Palaniswami, Velumani, and Thangamai.

The yatra, suspended between 21 and 24 October due to the Puja holidays, resumed in the Erode district on 25 October.

On 20 October, a 50-feet flag pole was erected near Annamalai’s residence on East Coast Road (ECR) in Chennai.

DMK functionaries and Muslim outfits objected to the flag pole and alleged that the pole was erected without permission. A protest followed and the police interfered and removed the flag pole put up on Highways Department’s property without permission.

In the small hours of 21 October, BJP workers, including BJP IT Wing state secretary Vivin Bhaskaran, clashed with the police.

According to intelligence sources, the video footage taken by police showed Amar Prasad Reddy at the scene. The local police said Amar Prasad had organised the midnight protest.

Senior police officials took the issue to the notice of Chief Minister Stalin and awaited his orders. The chief minister was briefed and a green signal was given to arrest the BJP functionaries, including Amar Prasad.

On 21 October evening, Amar Prasad was arrested.

The BJP IT Wing and senior BJP leaders, including H Raja, condemned the arrest. Annamalai went a step ahead and vowed that the BJP would erect 10,000 flagpoles across the state and that the final one would be erected at Panaiyur from where it was “forcibly removed by the police”.

Responding to the arrests, the BJP national president JP Nadda sent a four-member delegation, including former Karnataka Chief Minister DV Sadananda Gowda, MP Satya Pal Singh, BJP Andhra Pradesh president D Purandeswari, and MP PC Mohan, to look into the situation and submit a report to the party’s high command.

The BJP high command termed the arrests of its functionaries “brutal and irrational behaviour” of the DMK government.

Also read: Annamalai is a crowd puller at his yatra, yet to become vote puller

Craving for sympathy

D Chandra Prakash, a retired professor of Sociology, said that the BJP was trying to win sympathy over the arrests.

When asked about whether the DMK was unnecessarily giving free publicity to the BJP through these arrests, the professor said, “The ground reality is that the arrest had not had any effect among the people. The second-rung BJP leaders, who were arrested, are not connected emotionally with the people. I doubt whether it would have an impact on the cadres.”

“These arrests would not even make a political impact and it could be a loss only to a few individuals in the party,” he told South First.

He added that the party’s high command was reluctant to take the issue to the public.

“After the arrest, Annamalai, in an interview, said that he welcomed the arrest of the BJP cadres because that is the only way they become leaders very fast. If you note it minutely, one can sense that the top leadership of BJP is aware that these arrests won’t click with the people.”

No comment from DMK

Several DMK senior functionaries refused to comment on the issue and added that it was not worth speaking about a person who lacked the support of his own party cadres. They said that the law would take its own course on the issue.

C Chandran, a BJP functionary, said that the DMK did not see the BJP as an opponent but was rattled.

“This yatra is in the Kongu belt, particularly in Annadurai’s native district. They (the DMK) don’t like the huge turnout. By arresting the key organisers, they think that they can dilute the yatra,” he said.

He also said that more than the DMK, AIADMK leaders would be happy with the arrests.

“Even they want this yatra to be unsuccessful. They don’t want the BJP to be a major opponent of the DMK,” he added.

Meanwhile, the police had arrested Amar Prasad in a few other cases, that were pending in various districts, in an apparent bid to deny him bail.