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Why Tamil Nadu BJP chief Annamalai traded in the quiet life he dreamt of for ‘toxic’ politics

Dubbed ‘Singham’ during his tenure in IPS, Annamalai now juggles his role in Tamil Nadu BJP with responsibility as Karnataka assembly polls co-incharge.

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Chennai: When K. Annamalai, now Tamil Nadu BJP chief, resigned from the IPS in 2019, he had a clear idea of what he wanted to do.

“I just want to take some time out and enjoy the small things of life I have missed out,” the 2011-batch officer wrote in his resignation letter. 

“…Be a good father to my son, get into farming back home, and see whether my sheep still listen to me as I’m no more a cop now.”

But life, as they say, had other plans. 

Annamalai ended up in a field he once despised, politics. Then — as he was appointed BJP state chief in 2021 — he set up base in Chennai, nearly 400 km from his home district of Karur.   

Speaking to ThePrint, Annamalai, 38, said the journey so far has been about “struggle”.

“Politics is forced on me,” he added. I resigned for something else.”

According to him, the suggestion to join politics seemed acceptable to him for one reason and one reason alone — Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “If Modi ji was not in Indian politics, I can give it to you in writing that I would not have been here, but may be a farmer, after resigning from IPS.”

Dubbed “Singham” during his tenure in the IPS, Annamalai now juggles his role in the Tamil Nadu BJP with another responsibility assigned to him earlier this month in poll-bound Karnataka.

“I have to be here in Tamil Nadu on ground to ensure no narrative against the BJP is set,” he said. “Then I have to do justice to Karnataka where I am the co-incharge (for the assembly polls). Then there is the foundation (We The Leaders, which he founded), for which I set aside three days a month, and farming one-and-a-half day a month.”

His dream to enjoy the small things, meanwhile, still remains out of reach. 

“For being here, a huge price has to be paid — loss of privacy and crazy travel schedule.”

Also Read: ‘Abusing’ Dalit man just latest of DMK’s own goals in Tamil Nadu. And BJP ‘won’t keep mum’

‘UP changed me as a person’

Annamalai, a Karnataka-cadre IPS officer, was the deputy commissioner of police, Bengaluru South, when he resigned in 2019. An engineering graduate with an MBA from IIM-Lucknow, Annamalai said Uttar Pradesh “changed me as a person”. 

“I never aspired to be a politician. I went to Uttar Pradesh (UP) to do my MBA, UP changed me as a person. I became an IPS officer,” he added.

He said he left the IPS to do something “that can maximise my giving back to the people”. 

“The foundation was an option. But, at the end of the day, people do influence you and several options are thrown at you.”

A fiercely private person, Annamalai, who now has two young children, likes to keep his family away from the public eye. Some of his most profound moments of joy, he said, are when he is left alone with a book. 

Talking about the struggles of life as a politician, he said one feels “your whole life is unsettled”. 

“You don’t sleep in a bed daily. You meet your children at odd times. By the time you wake up, they go to school. By the time you come back, they are asleep. These are all big discomforts.”

Annamalai said the “only thing certain in my life is my family, politics is uncertain”. 

“Love for Modi ji and the country keeps me going. Through all the discomfort, I keep saying there will be a silver lining somewhere.”

‘Rebel to shake the system’

A first-generation politician, Annamalai described Indian politics as “very toxic”. 

“For a first-timer like me, all guns are on me,” he said, adding that there “is no space in politics for a first-timer”.

“For some people, the background is set. They have been part of a system for 35 years. The leadership is around you. You are a single leader in the party. Take DMK, AIADMK, TNCC, Anbumani Ramadoss of PMK, they are all groomed to the role for 20-25 years. But Annamalai is not like that. Just two years into politics, struggling.”

However, he said, the same thing helps him forge a connection with many people. 

“Many people see themselves in me. A first-generation politician coming from a village. Getting into politics, trying and struggling.”

He defined himself as a rebel who has come into the political arena to shake up the existing system. “I am trying to bring something new to the people. Fresh voice matters.”  

In the time that Annamalai has been in politics, he has been in the spotlight for several issues. One of these pertains to the watch he wears, French watchmaker Bell & Ross’s BR 03 Rafale, which has drawn criticism from members of the ruling DMK. 

Asked about the watch, he replied, “I am wearing it even now.”

He added, “For the first time in Indian history, for a person who has not taken government money, people question my expenses… that shows how much Annamalai matters to TN politics.”

In April, when he plans to undertake a padyatra across Tamil Nadu, Annamalai said he will be disclosing all the expensive commodities he owns, including the bill for the watch. “On the same day, a tsunami will happen in TN. I will also release details of property worth Rs 2.5 lakh crore owned by DMK ministers, with their name, benami name, etc.”

About future plans, Annamalai said he was open to taking up any role that has been given to him by the party high command. He added, “If you personally ask me, I want to be in Tamil Nadu all the time, serving here.”

On a question about posters calling him the next CM, Annamalai said, “With position comes fame and with that comes popularity and with that comes negative criticism. This is all maya, as per Hindu mythology,” he said. “Positions are given by the party. Whatever the party wants me to do I will do that.”

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: DMK vs RSS in Tamil Nadu: Denial of permission for march gives Sangh ‘huge mileage’, says Annamalai


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