Prime Minister Modi is highly popular in Tamil Nadu; AIADMK a healthy alliance partner, says BJP State president
Reiterating that the BJP does not endorse the creation of a Kongu Nadu by bifurcating western Tamil Nadu, the party’s State president, K. Annamalai, has said it stands for a “unified Tamil Nadu”. In an interview, he denied that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was unpopular in the State, and said it would be a straight fight between the BJP and the DMK in 2026. Edited excerpts:
You said the creation of a Kongu Nadu was not the BJP’s demand. Would this demand be revived in the future?
A party represents the aspirations of the people. The BJP (Tamil Nadu) represents the aspirations of the people of Tamil Nadu. As for Kongu Nadu, if you look at the region, there was never a demand for a separate State from the people of the region. But you have to understand Kongu Nadu was always a social identity. There is nothing wrong in people using the term Kongu Nadu. You have to look at the context in which it was used — for seven [Union] Ministers, a social identity was given: Bundelkand, Konkan Maharashtra, Purvanchal and Kongu Nadu. The Central government, especially the Prime Minister’s Office only used it as a social identity. We have always stood for a unified Tamil Nadu. This question is never asked to other parties. If there’s a people’s aspiration, I can react. When there’s no demand, why should I react?
You recently said the BJP was targeting 150 Assembly seats in 2026. How are you planning to achieve this?
Tamil Nadu politics is negative right now. It is now between the DMK and the BJP. Whatever politics the DMK is doing is against [Prime Minister] Modi ji, the Central government and the BJP. They are not doing anything else [except saying] ‘We don’t want NEET, New Education Policy, three language formula, we don’t want this, that…’ Naturally, the BJP as a party is forced to explain to the people that ‘NEET and the three-language formula is good for you. Nobody is imposing Hindi on Tamil Nadu’. When we clarify, defend and talk to the people, the public say ‘okay…these guys are different’.
Can any ordinary cadre in the DMK aspire to become a Minister as is the case in our party? You have generation after generation of family members getting posts. Now there are three Chief Ministers — M.K. Stalin, Udhayanidhi Stalin and Mr. Stalin’s son-in-law. They are putting up Udhayanidhi’s photo next to Periyar. Is this the social justice they are talking about?
In Tamil Nadu, we have a communication issue. We are not able to fully convert the popularity of the Prime Minister into votes because we have structural issues. We have booth-level issues. We are sorting them out.
But there is a perception that the Prime Minister is highly unpopular in the State…
The Prime Minister is highly popular. I don’t go by what a couple of news channels project about him. I go by the views of the common people. When he [Modi] comes to Coimbatore, why do two lakh people turn up? We will aggressively work to ensure that his popularity is converted into votes. 2019 [Lok Sabha election] was a bad year for the BJP in Tamil Nadu, because when the whole country was celebrating Modi ji’s leadership, they [DMK] were able to generate an artificial negativity wave against him, simply by having three to four news channels. In the last two years, we have done a lot of ground work. I can confidently say that in 2026, we will form the government.
You are saying it’s going to be the DMK vs the BJP. What about the AIADMK then?
The AIADMK is a very good friend. They are our alliance partner. They are in the opposition. We have mutual respect. The principal opposition is the AIADMK in terms of numbers. But the fight is between the DMK and the BJP in the open space, because it is narrative politics at play. The DMK is attacking our schemes; it is spreading lies about what the Prime Minister is doing. With all due respect to the AIADMK, our principles match, they are our partners. But in narrative politics, you go to social media… what are they talking about? They are talking about whether they want the DMK or the BJP. So the fight is between both of us. The AIADMK and the BJP agree on principles — we support the [abrogation of] Article 370, farm laws and [abolition of] triple talaq. They disagree with us on the three-language formula, NEET… it’s a healthy alliance. But it’s a straight fight between the DMK and the BJP.
Do you feel V.K. Sasikala’s moves might impact the AIADMK?
We are a responsible national party that goes by the structure and process of a party. For the AIADMK, there’s a general council that has elected two leaders — OPS [O. Panneerselvam] and EPS [Edappadi K. Palaniswami]. Ms. Sasikala is an individual. We don’t want to comment on individuals in Tamil Nadu. It is also purely their internal issue. EPS has also done a good job as Chief Minister. Purely, it was anti-incumbency, otherwise we would have won this election . We wish well for the AIADMK, it is a healthy alliance.
What do you feel about the HR&CE Department’s efforts towards retrieving temple lands and renovating temples?
Whatever lands were taken from them [temples] during 2001-11 when the DMK was in power, they [DMK] are giving it back. I wish them good luck. People will not go by this drama. People know the character of the DMK, how [DMK] people at the local level behave. The appeasement politics of the DMK and doing these things here and there will not work.
The DMK’s usage of the word ‘Ondriya arasu’ [Union government] seems to be irking your party. Why?
If you are translating ‘Ondriya arasu’ as the Union government, I am fine with it. But they [DMK] are not translating it. If you look at the context in which other Ministers talk about it, I don’t agree with it. The Finance Minister talks about how different States need representation in the GST Council based on the [geographic] area it covers. Then look at the context of them saying ‘Tamil Nadu is finally free from the clutches of the Centre’. That is why we object to the usage of ‘Ondriya arasu’. If the Chief Minister [Mr. Stalin] clarifies tomorrow that ‘we are only translating’, we don’t have an issue. Then the DMK IT wing shared a post of Annadurai [talking] about Dravidian nadu. It is in this context that we are opposing it.
What will the stand of the BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit be on the Mekedatu issue, if the Union government, in the future, allows Karnataka to construct the dam?
In 2017, when the issue cropped up, the Supreme Court struck it down saying that without the consent of the lower riparian States, nobody can construct a dam. The Union Water Resources Ministry has made it very clear that the dam will not be constructed. Karnataka can choose to do politics, even though there is a BJP government there. The Tamil Nadu BJP is against the dam.
You said in 2020 that the number of rural students who got into medical courses in Tamil Nadu was due to NEET, compared to the previous years. But isn’t that also because of the 7.5% reservation implemented last year?
Between 2006 and 2016, during the pre-NEET years, the average number of Tamil-medium rural students getting medical admissions was 19 a year. During 2016-18, we had a problem due to translation issues [in the question papers]. The year 2020 was ideal because Tamil Nadu went for syllabus revision. [Even] Without the 7.5% reservation, it was better than 19 seats. Let the [Justice] A.K. Rajan Committee not engage in a selective reading of the data, which is what it did using the data from 2016, 2017 and 2018. All the experts agree that in 2020, the syllabus is there [for NEET]. Students from Tamil Nadu figured in the top 10; 50% of Tamil-medium students who took NEET passed the exam — the highest in its history.