PM Modi's "Remember Jayalalithaa" Jibe At DMK In BJP's Solo Tamil Nadu Fight

The BJP has traditionally struggled in Tamil Nadu - where Dravidian parties DMK and AIADMK dominate - securing less than four per cent of the votes in the 2019 election.

PM Modi's 'Remember Jayalalithaa' Jibe At DMK In BJP's Solo Tamil Nadu Fight

The late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa (L) and Prime Minister Modi (File).


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday invoked the memory of ex-Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa to attack the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, accusing the ruling party of disrespecting women and keeping the state "trapped in old thinking..." Mr Modi - on his eighth visit to the state this year - also hit out at the Congress-led INDIA bloc, of which the DMK is a member, as he referred to Jayalalithaa and thundered "we know how they treated her... passed vulgar comments about her".

"Tamil Nadu respects women... but INDI Alliance does not, DMK does not. Rahul Gandhi said he will 'destroy Shakti', while another (referring to Chief Minister MK Stalin's son Udhayanidhi Stalin) says he will eliminate Sanatana Dharma," the Prime Minister said.

"DMK wants to keep Tamil Nadu trapped in old thinking... old politics. DMK has become the 'company' of a family (a jibe at the Gandhi family)," he declared.

The jabs at Mr Gandhi and Udhayanidhi Stalin have been seen as routine attacks on opposition leaders, but (another) mention of Jayalalithaa has raised eyebrows.

The (unspoken) reference was to an incident in the Assembly in 1989, when the late ex-Chief Minister was heckled - an incident the BJP has often raised as it looks for support in a state that has traditionally rejected its brand of politics.

Back in August Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman referred to the 1989 incident to counter DMK MP Kanimozhi's attack on the centre over crimes against women.

In February the PM lavished praise on Jayalalithaa, calling her a "true leader".

He also praised All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam founder MG Ramachandran's commitment to governance without "dynasty politics" - a standard jibe at the Congress.

READ | PM's Praise For AIADMK's MGR, Jayalalithaa Months After Ally's Exit

The importance of Tamil Nadu - and its 39 Lok Sabha seats - to the BJP in this election has been underlined by Mr Modi's multiple visits to the state and South India overall.

The BJP and the AIADMK allies till October last year, when they broke up after sneering comments by the BJP's state unit boss, K Annamalai, targeting iconic AIADMK leaders, including another ex-Chief Minister - CN Annadurai, who was MGR's mentor.

For the BJP, losing the AIADMK's support means it must fight solo in a state that has never really taken to the saffron party, which was routed in the 2019 election and won just a single Lok Sabha seat five years earlier. Thumping defeats in the 2016 and 2021 Assembly polls emphasised the lack of traction.

Aware it needs local support to win votes in the state, the BJP tied up with smaller parties, including S Ramadoss' Pattali Makkal Katchi, but kept the door open for a renewal of ties with the AIADMK.

READ | BJP Seals Deal With PMK For Lok Sabha Polls In Tamil Nadu

Last month Jayalalithaa and MGR even featured in the BJP's campaign posters.

The AIADMK, though, has cold-shouldered the calls. The party called the poster move "cheap politics". We are clear... no return to NDA. They are spreading fake news," senior leader D Jayakumar said.

That the BJP's senior leaders, including the Prime Minister, have not directly attacked the AIADMK (so far) is telling. The parties may not be allies, but many see the BJP as trying to stay neutral on the AIADMK and hope that some votes from the party shift to its camp.

Possibly to that effect, the PM campaigned in western Tamil Nadu's Salem, which is seen as an AIADMK stronghold and is party boss Edappadi K Palaniswami's home turf.

READ | PM Holds Massive Rally In AIADMK Stronghold In Tamil Nadu

Here too, however, he targeted only the DMK and the Congress.

Tamil Nadu votes in the first phase of the seven-phase Lok Sabha election.

The results will be declared on June 4.

NDTV is now available on WhatsApp channels. Click on the link to get all the latest updates from NDTV on your chat.