"If the punishable crime is damaging the BJP's image, then perhaps it is the party's Tamil Nadu chief Tamilisai Soundararajan who should have been arrested, not Sofia. In terms of wreaking havoc on the BJP, Sofia cannot achieve in a lifetime what Tamilisai managed in mere moments," tweeted Ramon Magsaysay award recipient and veteran journalist P Sainath moments after a controversy erupted following 28-year-old Sofia studying in Canada shouted “fascist BJP government down, down” on board a flight in the presence of Soundararajan.
Sofia was sent to 15-day judicial custody after Soundararajan filed a complaint against her. However, She was later granted bail.
BJP’s swagger becomes a whimper as they set foot in Tamil Nadu. Though BJP claimed time and again that Karnataka is its gateway to South India, the party has so far failed to draw any inspiration from its success there to breach the other regional parties' citadel in four southern states.
Following the issues like Cauvery and NEET, BJP's image has taken a beating in TN. Not to mention Modi's alleged highhandedness in AIADMK refusing memorial for Karunanidhi in Marina. An anti-Modi wave swept across the state after Modi dilly-dallied constituting Cauvery Management Board (CMB) with his eyes firmly set on Karnataka elections. The issue snowballed into a major controversy which put the BJP in a tight spot.
Hundreds of ‘Modi Go Back’ black balloons were released into the Chennai’s skies and black flags were hoisted at the houses against Modi for failing to constitute CMB. Modi arrived at the Chennai airport from New Delhi and took a helicopter to reach the venue of the DefExpo 2018 on the Chennai outskirts.
Unlike in other states, where BJP’s strategies won, Tamil Nadu has always been a ''land of embarrassment'' for the party. BJP, as a party, yet gain a toe-hold in the state, let alone making inroads. Not the least, BJP's state unit has been anything but catastrophe.
Last year, the state unit of BJP drew much flak when it demanded that dialogues in a Tamil film Mersal that criticized demonetisation and GST be censored. The national secretary of the party H. Raja went on to give a communal twist to the issue by pointing to the actor’s Christian faith, attracting a heavy backlash on social media. He even posted the voter ID of the actor on Twitter with his full name Joseph Vijay and captioned it “Truth is Bitter.”
In response, social media filled with ‘IAmJoseph’ and ‘ILoveJosephVijay’ hashtags, putting the BJP on the backfoot.
The BJP opened its account in the Tamil Nadu Assembly in 2001 by winning four seats in an alliance with DMK. However, the party drew a blank in every Lok Sabha and Assembly election held till 2014 when it bagged one seat with the rainbow alliance formed with some lightweight parties.
The alliance disintegrated in 2016 during assembly elections.
Unlike 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP will find it very tough to cobble up an alliance in the state. Party president Amit Shah during a visit to Chennai in July said that the party would announce an alliance by October 2018 even as the social media was abuzz with hashtags like #GoBackAmitShah.
Around the time of toppling of statues of several leaders in various parts of the country post the BJP's victory in Tripura, a post from Tamil Nadu BJP leader H. Raja’s verified Facebook page said: “Who is Lenin? What is the relevance he holds in India? What is the link between communism and India? Lenin’s statues were destroyed in Tripura, tomorrow, in Tamil Nadu, casteist Periyar’s statues will be destroyed.”
The post received huge online backlash, after which it disappeared from the BJP leader’s page.
Following the demise of J Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK-BJP made no secret of their intimacy. Having said that, Edappadi K. Palaniswami is hugely unpopular among the people of the state. A tie-up between BJP and AIADMK may prove to be detrimental for both the parties. But given the political scenario in the state, no party wants to have a tie-up with the BJP which may result in two unpopular parties in the state -- AIADMK and BJP -- coming together.
BJP's communal and divisive politics cut no ice with the people of Tamil Nadu. As long as BJP replicates the strategy it advocates in other parts of the country in Tamil Nadu, it would remain an outcast and non-starter in the state.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)