Amid buzz that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may contest from Tamil Nadu in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, state BJP chief K Annamalai said PM Modi has transcended the regional barrier and is considered as an "insider' and not an "outsider" in the southernmost state.
PM Modi contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from two constituencies - Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Vadodara in Gujarat. He won both seats but represented Varanasi. He was re-elected from Varanasi in 2019.
In ANI Podcast with Smita Prakash, Annamalai said, "Modi ji is seen as an insider. In fact, if you look at the Tamil news for the last month, somebody has started a rumour that Modi ji is fighting from Tamil Nadu for one of the seats. Everywhere you go, people ask (whether PM Modi will contest from Tamil Nadu)."
The BJP leader said the buzz about PM Modi contesting from Tamil Nadu has become a talking point.
"Two days back, I was at a tea shop in Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu. Someone said to me, Anna are you sure Modi Ji will contest? This is becoming a talking point," he said.
Asked about the constituency from which Prime Minister may contest in the 2024 general elections, Annamalai said, "Ramanathapuram is what the rumour says. So people have picked up the rumour. It is all a rumour. But people are commenting...They are talking... They want Modi ji to contest. This is seen as a sign that Modi ji is seen as an insider and not an outsider from any distant part of India."
Annamalai said PM Modi blurred the lines such as "outsider" and of regional identity. "Caste identity, Tamil-based identity and a lot of things go into people's minds in deciding who they vote for. But Modi ji has transcended everything. Probably he is the first outsider in Tamil Nadu. Nobody has done it. It is a sign that Modi ji has transcended everything. 2024 would be a very different election," emphasized the Tamil Nadu BJP chief.
Asked that leaders from Gandhi family had contested from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh but had not gone to Tamil Nadu which has had strong state parties, Annamalai said PM Modi is seen as a unifier and there "is a wave" regarding him in Tamil Nadu.
"Modi ji is seen as a unifier. Modi Ji is seen as the first person who took the effort to reach out to Tamil Nadu. This is the image of Modi Ji. His magic translating into votes in Tamil Nadu is an art. The important thing in the next 16-18 months, we are working like a wire now, putting people in the booth, they know which house to go to, which person to approach, and they know which voter is voting for us. This is something we have to do."
Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had contested from Chikkamagaluru in Karnataka in 1978 after Emergency. In the 1980 general elections, Indira Gandhi contested from Medak seat in undivided Andhra Pradesh. Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi contested from Bellary in Karnataka along with Amethi in Uttar Pradesh in 1999. She had won both seats but represented the Amethi constituency.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also followed the footprints of his grandmother and mother and chose a southern state to contest the 2019 general elections. Rahul contested the Wayanad constituency in Kerala along with Amethi in Uttar Pradesh in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. However, he lost the Amethi seat that he held for three consecutive terms.
Asked about the BJP's alliance with AIADMK, Annamalai said, "We are not against any party or person. We are very clear that BJP has to become very strong. It is not an alliance of convenience like DMK. It is an alliance of respect. We have many disagreements with AIADMK, but it is based on certain principal, we align with each other."
He added that BJP has to have its own identity in Tamil Nadu and the party will work hard to translate PM Modi's popularity into votes.
"We want to sit with alliance partners with strength and respect. That is why we want to change the public impression also. We contested alone in the recent local body polls. We want to see where the party stands. Local body polls were a great opportunity for our booth-level workers. Modiji's image is fantastic in Tamil Nadu. We have to make that connection and convert that into votes," said the Tamil Nadu BJP President.
He said BJP has a strong presence at the grassroots level and the party is expanding now.
"If you take 2019 as a barometer, or when Modi ji fought for the first time in 2014 for Prime Minister, Tamil Nadu BJP stood alone. We fought alone. The combined vote share percentage of our alliance was over 19 per cent. That was a historic number for us. People said Modi ji is coming. The wave was in Tamil Nadu since 2014," Annamalai said when asked about whether language can be a barrier for Narendra Modi as there is a Tamil sentiment and Prime Minister makes most of his speeches in Hindi.
The BJP leader alleged that opposition parties in the state have run anti-Modi campaigns after 2017. He said the opposition has created a fake narrative that BJP is not concerned about Tamil sentiments.
Referring to PM Modi's Madurai visit, Annamalai said, "When Modi ji last time came to Tamil Nadu and visited Madurai, people offered a grand welcome. No politician has got a Twitter trend that is 14 lakh per day. 'Welcome Modi' got 14 lakh views on social media. So, one can see a clear shift in public perception."
Annamalai said BJP is emerging as a force in Tamil Nadu and it is a clear indication for the 2024 general elections.