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'There is anti-incumbency against Modi'

Last updated on: April 18, 2024 10:00 IST

'When you weigh anti-incumbency against the Centre against anti-incumbency against the state, anti-incumbency against the Centre will triumph as this is a parliamentary election.'

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra D Modi holds a roadshow with Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai in support of the party's Chennai South candidate Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan, Chennai, April 9, 2024. All photographs: ANI Photo

With the elections hotting up more than the summer heat, Tamil Nadu is seeing four different candidates wooing them, not counting the independents in the fray.

But the joker in the pack is the Bharatiya Janata Party who, under its state chief Kuppuswamy Annamalai, is making a high-decibel attempt to wrest the state from Dravidian parties' domination lasting over 50 years.

"BJP may come second in 10 seats," Dr Sumanth Raman, the well-known commentator on Tamil Nadu politics, tells Senior Contributor A Ganesh Nadar.


The BJP is making an all-out dash to win big in Tamil Nadu this time. Realistically speaking, how many seats can they expect?

I am not sure about them winning any seats. One or two, but even that is doubtful.

What is their biggest strength, what is their biggest weakness?

Their biggest strength is the effort they are putting in, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting so many times, and the party organisation working full time.

Their biggest weakness is they don't have a large enough base at the grassroots level, at the booth level.

Secondly, they are out of tune with the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu.

Katchatheevu, etc... do such issues still have electoral traction in Tamil Nadu?

They have absolutely no traction with the people and this election. Katchatheevu or Sengol or any such topics.

How much of an incremental value will Modi's forays into Tamil Nadu have?

It must have some value as they must have done local research to see what effect he has.

He has come 12 or 13 times this year. He will have some impact, how much we will have to wait and see.

K Annamalai has been explosive since his appointment. What does the future hold for him?

He started very well when he was first appointed president. He has squandered it with some of his latest statements.

The DMK led front, The AIADMK led front, the BJP led front and the NTK. How much percentage of the vote would you give them today?

DMK 40% to 45%

AIADMK 28% to 30%

BJP 13% to 17%

NTK 5% to 7%.

I feel the NTK will be squeezed out.

You recently tweeted that many non-performing MPs will get elected by being in the right place at the right time. Could you care to elaborate?

I am not going to take names, but in both the DMK and the Congress there are non-performing MPs.

They don't live in their constituencies and they haven't done any significant work there.

Yet they will get elected because they are in the DMK and Congress at this time.

The recent Rs 4 crore cash seizure in Tambaram, with fingers pointing at the BJP candidate... What do you think of the episode?

It is a sad fact that cash distribution is happening all over the state. Only an inquiry will show whose money it was.

Elections in Tamil Nadu are always between the DMK and the AIADMK, but Annamalai believes differently, that the BJP has arrived. False confidence, or based on reality?

I think some of it is bravado. They might come in second in 10 seats.

Their vote share will be in double digits for sure.

For the first time, Annamalai and three of his predecessors as Tamil Nadu BJP presidents are in the electoral fray. Does it signify anything?

They have asked all senior leaders to contest. They asked a sitting governor Tamilisai to resign and contest.

L Murugan is already a Rajya Sabha member. but he is contesting. They have brought out their heavy ammunition.

The swing voters in Tamil Nadu have a strong incentive in cash for votes. How will this play out as both Dravidian parties and the BJP have lots of money?

They will take money from all and split the votes in the family.

For example, if a family has six votes and both the Dravidian parties have given them money, each will get three votes.

The AIADMK was routed last time in the company of the BJP. This time they are going on their own. Will the minorities buy into them?

The minorities will not desert the DMK not in large numbers. Maybe a few will vote for the AIADMK.

IMAGE: Dr Sumanth Raman.
Photograph: Kind courtesy Sumanth Raman/X

Edappadi K Palaniswami made the astounding statement that the BJP tried to break up the AIADMK, did they? Why did it fail, then?

In the latter part of the OPS (O Panneerselvam)-EPS saga, the BJP supported OPS. They were trying to crush EPS with OPS.

Is there a chance of the DMK jumping ship in case the INDIA alliance doesn't do well, but the DMK does very well? After all they have been part of the BJP government in the past.

There is a possibility as there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics.

At this point of time, I don't see this happening. But you cannot rule it out. Depends on how many ministries they are offered.

The DMK also knows that this will make it very difficult for them in the 2026 assembly elections.

IMAGE: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and DMK President M K Stalin at an election meeting in Coimbatore, April 12, 2024.

Will Stalin be able to overcome the anti-incumbency against his party and government?

There is bigger anti-incumbency against Narendra Modi.

When you weigh anti-incumbency against the Centre against anti-incumbency against the state, anti-incumbency against the Centre will triumph as this is a parliamentary election.

If the present political formulations continue, how do you see the Tamil Nadu assembly elections fanning out?

In this election, the INDIA alliance will do well.

The AIADMK has a very good chance in the 2026 assembly elections as there is lots of anti-incumbency against the DMK government.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/