There must be something terribly wrong with Congress spokespersons. Khushbu Sundar becomes the fifth illustrious Congress mediaperson to quit the party. The Congress, which attracted a number of people with high popularity ratings, seems to be lacking all skills in handling them to the best possible use and utility. The current Congress leadership can probably make more money with a book on ‘how to lose friends’.
Leading Tamil film actor-turned-politician Khushbu Sundar’s move to join the BJP has evoked mixed response in the social media. Although the political circle in Tamil Nadu was debating this for some time, the real strong lead indicating her tilt towards the BJP came through her support to the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020.
As was expected, Khushbu Sundar has refused to spell out what she expects from the BJP and turned the question around to suggest that the party will do much more than what it is doing now for Indian citizens. She has also told a TV channel that “when you have 128 crore people actually believing in one man and that’s our PM, I think they’re doing something absolutely right”.
But her earlier tweet saying, “It’s an insult to me as an Indian to call him (Narendra Modi) my PM.. he behaves like a PM to selective group..Alas blind bhakts don’t see that..communal riot minded such as you follow a man who thinks people from different religion are not INDIANS.. Modi is an insult to India n it’s democracy”. Strong words.
She will still draw crowds when she hits the campaign trail soon in Tamil Nadu. But it is difficult to say to what extent the cadre in the state will accept her as a leader of the party. Going by the present mixed reaction, it is possible that the BJP might not benefit as much as it would have expected from her entry into the party.
New entrants, old problem
The BJP’s growth from a two-member party in Parliament to a ruling party with practically no challenger in the near future is mainly due to four factors. The strong adherence to the core ideology of the party in tune with its programmes and policies. The second factor is the dedicated cadre that has in some cases passed on from the first generation of Bharatiya Jana Sangh workers to the present crop of leg workers. The third factor is the extremely well-calibrated election strategies going down to the electoral booth level to decimate the opponents. The last and the important factor is the projection of a charismatic leader.
The recent entrants into the party, be it in Madhya Pradesh or Tamil Nadu, does not fit into any of these categories. Tamil Nadu politics saw the last of the dominance of the celluloid icons. After the exit of stalwarts like C. Rajagopalachari and M. Bhaktavatsalam, Tamil Nadu politics oscillated between the two Dravidian parties led by silver screen idols who were virtually deified. The present leadership of all the state and national parties do not have this comfort of flaunting a cine idol. That age and era seems to be over. In such a situation, it is doubtful if cine artists, albeit highly successful, will bring any value to the BJP, which is struggling to open its account in the state.
Burden still on Modi
Khushbu Sundar began her career in politics by joining the AIADMK in 2001 after her programmes in Jaya TV became a hit. After the BJP lost power at the Centre in 2004 and AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa’s fortunes nosedived, Khushbu joined the DMK in 2006. Despite not having any background in the party or links with the Dravidian movement that the DMK spearheaded for more than four decades, she became the high-ranking spokesperson of the DMK. She quit the party after it lost in 2011. She then joined the Congress, which lost power in 2014. According to one Twitter post, the BJP is not in power in Tamil Nadu and hence nothing to lose even if a “jinxed” Khushbu joins it now.
Yet, the local unit of the BJP must have thought of a new strategy. In the last few weeks, a number of politicians from other parties and people from the bureaucracy have joined the BJP. They bring with them credibility and administrative experience. The BJP needs new faces in Tamil Nadu and become more representative of the social structure.
Besides, the ideology of Dravidian separatism propagated by Dravida Kazhagam and then in the political platform by the DMK seems to have become outdated and rejected by a large section of the electorate. Even the anti-Hindi, anti-north propaganda does not seem to yield any political result.
There is no state-level leader to match the charisma and popularity of Narendra Modi. In such a situation, the party will need a good core team at the state level, which will be deeply rooted in ideology and reach out to the cadre and at the same time make maximum use of the new entrants.
The author is the former editor of ‘Organiser’. Views are personal.