Tamil Nadu BJP chief Annamalai has had a rousing start for his historical yatra, that he commenced on Friday - July 28 from Rameswaram with a motive of travelling to all the constituencies in the state in six months to strengthen the party ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP, which is in political deep water in the state, hopes to have a breakthrough in what remains an evasive electoral base.
To everyone's surprise, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who is the second powerful man in Delhi, came all the way to the deep-south island of Rameswaram to launch Annamalai's yatra at a high time when the latter's contentious leadership in Tamil Nadu didn't go well with the party's high command. On Friday's launch event, Amit Shah gave some big takeaways including that he has confidence in Annamalai and his leadership.
However, there seems to be a friction with the BJP's alliance in the state. While the launch event was attended by some of the key leaders of the allied parties and they greeted Amit Shah, there was a missing partner in the game - ADMK's general secretary Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) didn't rub the shoulders with Amit Shah as he skipped the entire event and neither he took time to extend his greetings to Annamalai on social media.
ADMK has been a largest ally of BJP and it was evident when EPS was seated next to Prime Minister Modi in a recently-held NDA meeting where the allied parties of BJP took part. After defeating his intra-party foe O Pannnerselvam (OPS) in the leadership race, EPS became the general secretary of ADMK and has been considered as one of the important players in the BJP alliance.
Being the Tamil Nadu's Opposition leader, EPS has become an inevitable politician in Tamil Nadu and highly crucial for the BJP. It was expected that when Amit Shah is coming to the launch event of Annamalai's yatra, every party in the BJP alliance would share the stage and strengthen their voices. However, EPS was seen missing in the event and instead, the event was attended by ADMK leader RB Udhayakumar.
The absence of EPS in an event that was organized by ADMK's ally BJP in Tamil Nadu had sparked a debate over what could be the reason. According to IANS, the ADMK leadership is not very keen in supporting Annamalai's yatra, that has been named 'En Mann, En Makkal, (My soil, My people), in the wake of an intense anti-BJP sentiment among the ADMK cadres.
IANS had quoted the sources saying that EPS had given a strong message to Annamalai that he was not equal to him due to which he a lower level party functionary was sent to the event. A senior ADMK leader said it's not fully about the equality between EPS and Annamalai and EPS had chosen not to attend the event to convey a message to the ADMK cadres that he is respecting their anti-BJP sentiments.
The ADMK is building a political notion that it has started to lose the Muslim vote bank, which once had vehemently backed the party when MGR and Jayalalithaa were at the helm. Several ADMK leaders are of the view that EPS was under compulsion to have an alliance with the BJP and it turned out to be major loss for the party politically. The ADMK leaders even claim that Annamalai's yatra won't make any big political difference in Tamil Nadu and that it was just his self-publicity drive.
According to political observers, the ADMK and BJP won't part ways by clashing each other, which would further increase their struggles. Their alliance would at least last till the 2026 Tamil Nadu assembly polls as the leaders from the both the parties know that the conflicts in their alliance would ruin their political prospects, due to which when Annamalai described late ADMK supremo Jayalalithaa as a 'convicted' Chief Minister, there was no staunch criticism from EPS. Though EPS has now missed the launch event of Annmalai's yatra, it is less likely that he will miss the alliance with BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.