Tamil Nadu all set to vote for LS polls that saw BJP straining every nerve

Elections to 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state will be held on Friday 19 April, and the fate of 950 candidates will be decided by about 6.23 crore voters in the state.


Published Apr 18, 2024 | 6:02 PMUpdatedApr 18, 2024 | 6:02 PM

MK Stalin

Tamil Nadu is all set to vote on 19 April for the Lok Sabha polls, that was marked by fierce campaigns and acrimonious debates

The never-seen-before kind of spirited fight put up by the BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to gain a foothold in the Dravidian land in 2024 was a striking feature.

Elections to 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state will be held on Friday 19 April, and the fate of 950 candidates will be decided by about 6.23 crore voters who are set to exercise their franchise in nearly 68,000 polling stations.

Also Read: Won’t withdraw NEET even if we die, says TN BJP chief K Annamalai

Modi’s intense campaigning 

The election mood set in pretty early in the state, in January, with the commencement of repeated visits by Modi, who combined development and honour for Tamil language and culture as his main election plank, that also had the key element of denouncing DMK-Congress over alleged corruption and “parivarvad” politics.

The state witnessed intense campaigning for nearly a month starting in March.

Coimbatore, the hub of western Tamil Nadu is the most keenly watched constituency in the state and BJP’s K Annamalai is slogging to emerge victorious, battling against Dravidian giants  DMK and AIADMK.

He also faces a challenge from the Tamil nationalist Naam Tamilar Katchi in the four-way contest with anti-DMK-Congress votes split into three.

In his electoral parting shot, Annamalai asserted that “Dravidian politics” is not needed anymore in Tamil Nadu and described himself as a son and younger brother of the people.

Also Read: All steps in place for smooth polling: Tamil Nadu CEO

BJP’s campaign tactics  

Arguably, the 2024 LS polls are the only one in recent history in which the BJP set the tone for campaign discourse by mounting attacks rather than being in defence by coming up with disclosures on the Katchatheevu issue besides vehemently taking up other matters.

Katchatheevu issue led to a slanging match between the Saffron party, led by a fierce Annamalai and the DMK-Congress combine.

While the BJP alleged betrayal by the DMK-Congress, the Dravidian and grand old party posed questions on “Chinese incursions.”

Modi’s campaign also saw the Katchatheevu issue getting prominence to a great degree and he sought to pin down the DMK-Congress saying fishermen now pay the price for their betrayal.

The PM also dwelt on the drug menace, following the arrest of the expelled office-bearer of the DMK, Jaffer Sadiq by the NCB and the threat to “eradicate Sanatana Dharma.”

Also Read: Winning may not be an uphill task for Kanimozhi in Thoothukudi

Going extra mile to woo voters

In effect, Modi’s campaign was exhaustive in Tamil Nadu and he has addressed rallies in constituencies including Chennai, Coimbatore, Vellore and Tirunelveli.

A PM visiting TN nine times before a Lok Sabha election is undoubtedly a first in the state’s history.

It demonstrated the BJP’s resolve to break the electoral jinx it faces in the Dravidian land, almost on its own, with the support of only fewer allies, whose influence is confined to select regions.

The Pattali Makkal Katchi, the BJP’s key ally has focused its energies in Dharmapuri, where Sowmiya Anbumani is in the fray.

DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran (Central Chennai), A Raja (Nilgiris), Kanimozhi (Thoothukudi), BJP’s L Murugan (Nilgiris), Tamilisai Soundararajan (South Chennai), former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (Ramanathapuram), Congress party’s Karti Chidambaram (Sivaganga) and AIADMK’s J Jayavardhan (South Chennai) and AMMK chief TTV Dhinakaran are among the prominent candidates.

Barring the 2014 victory of BJP veteran Pon Radhakrishnan from the Kanniyakumari segment, the saffron party won in Tamil Nadu, since 1998, only when it aligned with either the AIADMK or DMK, the Dravidian twins.

South Chennai, Tirunelveli, Coimbatore, Nilgiris, and Vellore are the seats where the BJP nominees have gone the extra mile to convince voters.

Also Read: What has DMK given apart from family rule, corruption, asks Rajnath Singh

Stalin’s campaign on anti-BJP narrative

DMK president and Chief Minister MK Stalin, the star campaigner of his party, led the campaign on the themes of social justice, his regime’s welfare measures and “dangers” the nation faced due to the BJP, which has wrecked fiscal federalism.

He often described the polls as the second independence movement to free the nation from the BJP’s “divisive politics” and repeated the “electoral bond scam” to claim that it has unmasked the corrupt face of the BJP.

The Saffron party will do away with reservation and change the Constitution and that it was allergic to social justice were among the allegations he made in his campaigns.

A key focus of the DMK’s campaign was on its “battle” to get funds from Centre including for flood relief.

Stalin and his party leaders said not a rupee was given by the Centre and Nirmala Sitharaman’s claim of ₹5,000 crore central assistance to tackle the situation arising out of floods was actually the state’s own borrowing from banks merely channeled through the Union government.

Stalin throughout his campaign did not spare the main opposition AIADMK.

Udhayanidhi Stalin, son of CM Stalin and a Minister crisscrossed the state, held roadshows and targeted the BJP on a slew of issues including the “Madurai AIIMS being a non-starter.”

When Udhayanidhi repeatedly attacked PM as “29 paisa Modi” as the Centre returned only “29 paisa out of every one rupee paid as tax” to the Union government by the state, Annamalai countered by saying no other state received as much funds as Tamil Nadu from the Centre and if he did not stop the 29 paisa jibe, his party will refer to him as ‘Ganja Udhayanidhi” as the contraband is “available widely” in the state.

Also Read: AIADMK countered BJP efforts to split party, says Palaniswami

‘BJP’s bias based on caste, religion’

AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami was among the early birds on the poll landscape He addressed a rally of ally SDPI in January and said there is no need to project a ‘PM face’ to seek votes.

The main opposition party’s campaign was steered by Palaniswami, former CM and leader of the Opposition who took on the ruling DMK over every single issue that mattered, including the alleged collapse of law and order and the drug menace.

Towards the end of the campaign, he fiercely attacked the BJP for being discriminatory on the basis of “caste and religion.”

When Annamalai claimed AIADMK would disappear following polls, without losing cool, Palaniswami in a repartee said voters will teach them a lesson and no force could touch the party that has stormed several struggles.

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