Identity politics: BJP’s tactic for Tamils in Karnataka

City Elections State Top Story

BJP is attempting to cash in on Annamalai’s Tamil Nadu popularity with the Tamil Diaspora in Karnataka.

A bustling saffron crowd, sound of bursting crackers and intimidating slogans echoing through the narrow lanes – this was the backdrop of Annamalai’s road show in Sarvagnanagar, as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Tamil Nadu leader urged people to vote for BJP and accused Indian National Congress (INC) of nepotism.

Speaking in Tamil, Annamalai urged the local Tamilians in the area to vote for the BJP candidate. “Padmanaban, the candidate from Sarvagananagar has served in the corporation four times, this time he will win. Tamils here must support him and make him win the election. Member of Parliament (MP) PC Mohan will also join us,” he said.

C. Munikrishna, state BJP in-charge, Sarvagnanagar, said Annamalai has come here to woo the Tamilian diaspora in the area. He is confident of BJP’s chances in the election, as the party has a strong base.

“We selected the place because Annamalai is a prominent BJP figure in Tamil Nadu. And there are many Tamil voters in this place. Padmanaban, PC Mohan and other prominent leaders in the state have also come. We will definitely win because we have a strong base here,” he said.

“Do not forget to vote for the Lotus symbol,” said Annamalai at the roadshow. “The schemes will come to your doorsteps. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai  said that  BJP will win more than 130 seats this time, and we need you to help us get it.”

The roadshow was conducted from the Janaki Ram Layout, which is part of the Sarvagnanagar constituency – an area dominated by people of Tamil origin.

  • Annamalai received a rousing response from the locals.
  • Annamalai was offered watches, garlands and even soft drinks.
  • The former IPS officer enjoys great support among Tamils in Karnataka.
  • Identity politics has been a common tactic for BJP, expert says.

Annamalai went on to accuse Congress of nepotism, adding, “This time Sarvagananagar must come out of INC hands as they are doing family politics. BJP will bring policies home. So, people must vote for Padmanaban.”

The Sarvagnanagar constituency is currently ruled by a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and Congress leader Kelachandra Joseph George. He won the 2018 assembly election by a margin of over 53,000 votes.

However, Congress, responding to Annamalai’s accusation of nepotism, said the local people of Sarvagnanagar will not vote for BJP just by seeing Annamalai’s face.

Pro-Kannada activist Vatal Nagaraj, at a press conference today criticised the BJP’s identity politics in Karnataka, of prioritizing Tamil culture over Kannada in Karnataka. He said, “Today, in Karnataka, there is no respect for the Kannada language. If pro-Kannada groups don’t wake up and protect its language, the language will vanish from the state.”

Nataraj Gowda, spokesperson for Congress, said, “Annamalai has two faces. When he was an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, he hyped himself up when people were calling him ‘Singham’. He then betrayed his own profession to join BJP.”

“Not only that, he opposed the Mekedatu drinking water project, even though it would have benefitted the people of Tamil Nadu. He went on dharna. Now he’s in Bengaluru. Just by seeing his face people won’t vote for him. Tamilians, Telugus and Kannadigas have no reason to vote for him,” he added. The Congress spokesperson claimed the party will comfortably win the Sarvagnanagar constituency by at least 70,000 votes.

Dr. Harish Ramaswamy, a political analyst, said BJP’s move to send Annamalai to a Tamil-dominated area is part of identity politics, but he clarified that such moves do not necessarily work.

“People today are very conscious. They will not vote for BJP just because Annamalai has come. They will vote on the basis of what BJP or Congress as parties, have done in the area,” he said.

Harish added that reaching out to people belonging to the lower end of the economic spectrum has always been BJP’s tactic. To make Annamalai conduct a roadshow in the area is a calculated move as many Tamilians in Karnataka rate him quite highly, he said.

The Karnataka Assembly Election will take place on May 10, with the results to be released on May 13.

Anas Ali
I follow the Bundesliga, politics, Greek mythology and old videos of Jon Stewart. Writing about something or the other.