CHENNAI: BJP leaders in Tamil Nadu are more than buoyed over the visit of party president Amit Shah and feel that the target set by him was realistic and achievable, if party functionaries and cadre meticulously carry out plans at the macro and micro levels.
However, NDA ally DMDK appeared grumpy with party leader Vijayakant opting not to meet Shah, though some leaders of other alliance partners, including PMK’s Anbumani Ramadoss did meet the BJP president.
With Shah launching a broadside at the DMK during his public address on Saturday, the party was understandably furious.
The anger went up a notch after actor and DMK’s former Union minister Napoleon defected to the BJP on Sunday.
Within the party, Shah dispelled much of the confusion about whether it should try to hold on to the existing NDA alliance or cobble together a new one, by stressing that they were secondary issues at the moment. The message was loud and clear, said a functionary and added that Shah had shifted the focus to building the party in Tamil Nadu without worrying about the alliance.
Actually, Shah reduced the target for the membership drive — the State unit’s earlier plan to enrol one crore members was trimmed to a more realistic 60 lakh.
Being a national party with more appeal among urban youth, the party had been set a target of one to three lakh members for the 10 cities of Chennai, Tiruchy, Madurai, Salem, Erode, Coimbatore, Tuticorin, Vellore, Tirupur and Tirunelveli.
The rural areas in these districts had been given similar targets. In sum, 60 lakh was doable, he felt.
A functionary in Tiruchy said the party was already nearing one lakh membership and had added 35,000 members in the rural areas.
At the macro level, party functionaries admit that aiming to wrest power in the State in the next Assembly elections was not realistic. The party would instead concentrate on the 76 seats where the NDA had taken the first or second positions in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, an office-bearer said. The BJP is strong in about 40 of those constituencies. It has prepared a list of 60 seats where it could build the party strongly. About 45 of the seats are in the southern and western regions of the State and the rest in the delta and northern districts, including Chennai.
The BJP hopes to do well in those constituencies in the next Assembly elections and consolidate its position to win 50 to 60 seats in the 2021 Assembly elections. That is when it could hope to join hands with minor parties to form a coalition government, he said.
Commenting on Shah’s visit, political analyst and senior journalist Govi Lenin said the BJP was aware that it could not take root in Tamil Nadu by propagating Hindutva as Tamil nationalism and reservation politics of the Dravidian movement still hold sway here. So, the party had started appealing to Tamil pride by hailing Tamil savant Tiruvalluvar and Chola king Rajendra. At the moment, the total vote share of Dravidian parties is over 60 per cent, while the BJP has managed to reach the five per cent mark. Its immediate task would be to try and occupy the third position in State politics and start dictating the political agenda gradually, he said.
Despite the BJP’s optimism, the absence of Vijayakant or any of his representatives cast a shadow over Amit Shah’s visit. It raised questions over sustainability of the BJP-led alliance, especially after MDMK leader Vaiko’s exit.
Significantly, Vijayakant issued a statement on Sunday, making it clear that he was in the city and has no health problems that could have explained his no show. At a time when there are allegations that the BJP government was obstructing Christmas celebrations, Vijayakant stressed that his party considered every religion as ‘our religion’ and was working towards a society without caste and religious differences. He said he would preside over the Christmas celebrations on Monday when the party would offer a mutton biriyani feast as it did every year. Evangelical Church of India (ECI) founder Ezra Sargunam, a close friend of DMK leader M Karunanidhi, would be among the invitees.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Shah’s attack on the DMK had an immediate reaction from Karunanidhi who accused the BJP government with instructing the Central government to participate in various functions of the government on Christmas day. Citing the assurance by the BJP ministers in Parliament that the Christmas holiday would not be cancelled, he alleged that the Union Urban Development Ministry had asked its employees to attend office on that day.