On August 31, a notorious gangster with six murder cases against him, went to a programme organised by the BJP in Vandallur, Chennai, to join the party. He, however, fled on seeing a police team that arrived at the venue after being informed about his presence at the event that was presided over by the party’s state chief L Murugan.
The incident became a matter of joke, especially on social media. Most of the ridicule was, however, aimed at another person who had recently joined the BJP and was made the BJP’s state vice-president just two days earlier — ex-IPS officer Annamalai. Many were quick to point out that the former top cop had joined a party that was giving space to many criminals like Surya to strengthen its cadre base in the state ahead of the Assembly elections next year. They came down heavily on him for “sharing a common platform” with history sheeters, noting that Surya had tried to join the BJP after another rowdy ‘Kalvettu’ Ravi was made its member recently.
The Federal has reported about the saffron party roping in many people with criminal backgrounds and giving them important positions. The BJP’s state general secretary Karu Nagarajan defended the party saying until charges are proved in court, they cannot be seen as criminals. “If the charges are proved, the state chief will take action against them,” he said.
A man of action
Annamalai, selected from the Karnataka cadre, served as the deputy commissioner of police (DCP) of Bengaluru (South) between October 2018 and May 2019. His rise to the position within a short span of time had raised many eyebrows.
The IIM graduate, who decided to join the police force after the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, entered the IPS in 2011. His first posting was as the assistant superintendent of police in the Karkala sub-division in Udupi in 2013. Within two years, he was promoted as the superintendent of police of Udupi.
Annamalai, who says he has been inspired by former IPS officer K Vijayakumar who led a special task force that killed sandalwood brigand Veerappan, is known for arresting a most-wanted criminal, Bannanje Raja, with the help of the Moroccan police. Following the arrest, criminal activities in coastal Karnataka reduced.
His stringent actions earned Annamalai the sobriquet ‘Singam’, a reference to the character of a strict cop played by actor Surya in the movie Singam in 2010.
He restricted the movement of students in Manipal after 11:30 pm. Students caught violating the rule had to identify themselves and explain why they were outside at that hour. He used to meet school and college students thrice a week and lecture them about the ills of smoking and drug abuse. He also put an end to bike racing on roads and regulated the timings of bars.
In 2017, he earned a lot of praise and attention for his handling of the Baba Budangiri dispute. He tried to resolve the problem by inviting both Hindu and Muslim leaders for a peace talk.
He also encouraged policemen working under him to lose weight, saying that would help them get transfer to a place of their choice.
A ‘natural fit’
After he resigned from the IPS in 2019 and returned to Tamil Nadu, the mechanical engineer from Coimbatore’s PSG College of Technology and IIM-Lucknow graduate launched an NGO, ‘We The Leaders’, in March this year. There was no talk about him in the media till July when a Tamil magazine interviewed him. He spoke about self-sufficiency through organic farming.
But, within a week of the publication of that interview, Annamalai started to appear in interviews on various TV channels. During the interviews, he praised prime minister Narendra Modi and his decisions like demonetisation and the GST. He spoke against reservation, even though he himself was chosen to the UPSC under the BC quota. He also hinted that he may enter politics when actor Rajinikanth launched his party.
But, on August 25, he joined the BJP, telling the media that it was a “natural choice” since his thinking aligned with the party’s ideology. Within a week, he was appointed as state vice-president, ruffling the feathers of some senior office-bearers in the party.
‘I am against criminalisation of politics’
He has always opposed the entry of criminals into politics, Annamalai told The Federal when asked about the criticism being thrown at him.
“I would have agreed with the criticisms if he (criminal Surya) had been given a position of responsibility in the party. But he doesn’t hold any responsibility. Secondly, it is the media that claims that such an incident happened. We don’t know whether he came with any weapons. I am dead against criminalisation of politics and I am allergic to criminals entering politics,” he said.
The party is highly based on merit. “If there are criminals entering, I will raise my voice against it in the party’s internal forums. Let there be no doubt about that,” Annamalai said.
“Even our state president has issued a statement saying we will do a course correction. So, why should people have any prejudice? How can people compare me with a criminal? My aim is to indulge in clean, transparent, honest politics with integrity, and criminals have no role in that,” Annamalai said.
How does Annamalai, who resolved the Baba Budangiri dispute between two communities amicably, see the party’s senior leaders like H Raja trying to give communal colour to a murder that happened in the Ramanathapuram district on August 31?
“I respect the opinions of Raja sir as a lawyer and a leader. Whatever he said was based on the information he received. However, the police must be allowed to do a fair job. Let them complete the investigation and I will comment thereafter,” he said.