Monday, 27 June, 2022
HomeOpinionBJP is no 'alternative pole in Tamil Nadu politics'. Its local election...

BJP is no ‘alternative pole in Tamil Nadu politics’. Its local election results show why

Although the BJP has been heralded for its performance in Tamil Nadu's latest local body elections, the truth is far from it. DMK and AIADMK are way ahead.

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For the last two decades or so, the clarion call of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Tamil Nadu has been: “Tamarai Malarum”, meaning the ‘Lotus will blossom’. Now, soon after the local body elections in the state, there has been a high-pitched cacophony that lotus has blossomed in Tamil Nadu in a big way. This has been touted ad nauseam by the police officer-turned-party president, K. Annamalai. The gravamen of his claim is that the BJP has emerged as the third largest political party in the state because it won 5.4 per cent vote share, pushing the Congress, which secured 3.31 per cent, to fourth place. The Congress countered by saying that while the BJP contested in 5,594 seats, the Congress did so in only 1,370 seats.

This sally reminds me of a humorous episode from my college days at my hometown Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu. As I was walking back home one evening, I came across two young boys fighting each other, clothes torn and faces bruised. After separating them, I learnt that the dispute was over who was more intelligent. Their mark sheet indicated that one had scored higher in Mathematics while the other had done so in Physics. Impressed, I said both of them were equally intelligent. What were their marks? Out of 100, the first boy got 5 in Maths and 3 in Physics; the other one, the exact opposite.

The Hindu newspaper’s analysis of the elections in 20 municipal corporations (except Greater Chennai) shows that the BJP contested in 935 seats, won 21 (strike rate 2.3%) and lost deposit in 822 seats (88%). In the three large municipal corporations — Greater Chennai, Coimbatore, and Madurai — the BJP was washed out. In Coimbatore, it contested 98 out of 100 wards and drew a blank, despite the local MLA being from the party. In Madurai, the party contested 99 out of 100 wards and won in just one. In Greater Chennai also, the party contested in all 200 wards and won just one seat, that too on a pure caste basis in the Brahmin-dominated ward of West Mambalam, as admitted by the counsellor herself. The BJP didn’t get a single vote in a ward in the Jolarpet Municipality of Tirupattur district.

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What numbers really tell us

It seems like even the higher echelons of the BJP also have fallen for the story that the ‘lotus has blossomed’. Seshadri Chari recently wrote an article in ThePrint heralding BJP’s “sterling performance”. He highlighted the BJP’s ‘victory’ in numbers — 22 seats out of 1,374 in the corporation wards, 56 out of 2,843 seats in municipal wards, and 230 out of 7,621 seats in the town panchayat. This makes 308 out of the total number of 12,838 seats, a meagre 2.4 per cent share. Calling this a “historic victory which should be a cause of worry for the Dravidian forces” and saying that the “BJP has shown it can emerge as an alternative pole in Tamil Nadu politics and wean the state away from caste-oriented politics and silver screen leadership,” is indeed bizarre.

The fact is that 199 of the 308 seats (about 65 per cent) came from just one district — Kanyakumari, from where I belong. This is only marginally higher than the outcome in the 2011 polls, when the BJP won 175 out of 226 seats. Even here, the BJP was not always successful. In the Nagercoil Municipal Corporation, for instance, it won only 11 out of 52 wards. This was a big setback for the party since it had captured the municipality in 2011 and its nominee was the municipality chairperson and the incumbent MLA of Nagercoil. In any case, Annamalai had no role to play in the district where Hindu Munnani (the RSS front in Tamil Nadu) and the BJP had a stronghold much before his time. In fact, his immaturity and hate campaign against the Christian community, whose population is almost the same as that of Hindus in the district, played a role in the party’s poor performance.

In the rest of the 37 districts of Tamil Nadu, the BJP won just 109 seats and ended up with zero wins in 10 of them. Looking at the larger picture, a total of 12,818 wards went for elections. Of these, the DMK, with 7,701 wins, bagged 60.08 per cent of the wards. The AIADMK won 2,008, which is 15.7 per cent of the wards. The Congress stood third with a win percentage of 4.62 with 592 wards. The BJP is fourth as an individual party with a 2.4 win percentage. And if independents are considered as a whole, they occupy third place, pushing the Congress to fourth and the BJP to fifth position.

Incidentally, the “alternative pole in Tamil Nadu politics”, as claimed by Chari, had won just two municipalities in the 2011 local body election but none in 2022. In 2011, the BJP won a total of 272 seats, which has now marginally gone up to 308 with the vote share going up by a paltry 0.63 per cent.

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A small ‘victory’ shown as big

Political analysts are of the view that the BJP is nowhere close to the third position. It is only trying to set a narrative to overshadow the magnitude of the DMK’s victory. A senior Tamil Nadu journalist, Tharasu Shyam, told The Times of India: “It is laughable to see a national party projecting itself as the third-largest party in TN based on the urban local body poll results. The wide gap between the second successful party (AIADMK) and BJP itself reveals where the latter stands. The party’s strike rate is about 2.2 per cent, which is similar to 2011. Where is the growth of BJP?”

The small victory of the BJP, however, wasn’t achieved through a clean fight. It appealed to the baser instincts of hardcore casteists and communal elements and open inducements. In Tamil Nadu, their targets were Christians and the institutions run by them. Post-election, there have been reports of blatant horse-trading in the Kanyakumari district, where the BJP desperately wants to retain its relevance and importance. The Municipal Corporation of Nagercoil and the Town Panchayat of Therku Thamaraikulam are typical examples.

The BJP’s lotus cannot blossom in the pool of lies. But that is what it seems to be believing. It reminds us of the famous saying about ‘The Big Lie’: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” But this can only happen in autocracies and not in democracies, which, mercifully, India still is.

M.G. Devasahayam is a retired IAS officer and chairman of People-First. He also served in the Indian Army. Views are personal.

(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)

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