Urban body poll results proof of BJPs growing roots in Tamil Nadu

Urban body poll results proof of BJP's growing roots in Tamil Nadu

Strengthening its presence in corporations, municipalities and town panchayats of Tamil Nadu, the BJP has managed to win a total of 308 wards in the urban local body polls, marginally increasing its vote share in comparison with that in the elections in 2011.

Out of a total of 12,838 seats, the saffron party has won 22 seats in corporations (1.60 per cent), 56 seats in municipalities (1.46 per cent) and 230 seats in town panchayats (3.02 per cent). In the 2011 local body polls, the party had won a total of 226 seats – four in corporations (0.5 per cent), 37 in municipalities (1 per cent) and 185 in town panchayat (2.2 per cent) out of 12,816 seats across the state, according to the data available in Tamil Nadu state election commission website.

Of the 308 won this year, 200 wards are from Kanyakumari district alone, indicating at the party’s growing presence in the district.

Going by available data, the party’s overall seat share in urban local body polls has increased by 0.7 per cent – from 1.76 per cent in 2011 to 2.4 per cent in 2022.

Even though the BJP could not win a single seat in as many as 10 districts including Kallakurichi, Chengalpattu and Dharmapuri, the party has managed to show its presence in northern districts like Ariyalur, Vellore, Cuddalore and Ranipet, which were considered a difficult terrain for it. The party also won one seat in Chennai by defeating a Congress candidate.

BJP had allied with the DMK for the polls in 2001, but has been running solo in the local body polls since then.

After the poll results were announced, Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai went to proclaim that his party has emerged as the third largest party in the state after the DMK and AIADMK. BJP leaders claim that the increase in seat share, however marginal, indicates at a growth in the party’s voter base in the state.

“Until a few years ago, the party was restricted only to certain areas like Kanyakumari and Nagercoil. But, we have started to concentrate on the entire state and it is only as a result of that, that we have managed to win seats in several districts across the state. This also means that our voters’ base has increased,” said Vanathi Srinivasan, a BJP MLA.

Stating that the party had broken its alliance with the AIADMK for the local body polls, she said the BJP managed to field its own candidates in more than 6,000 wards which is close to 43 per cent of the total seats, and that this itself indicates that the party’s cadre base has increased.

Not just that, a lot of cadres belonging to other parties including the AIADMK have been joining the BJP in the recent times, Srinivasan claimed, adding that although the BJP received cadres from other parties earlier, the frequency of desertions has increased in the recent past.

Rebutting BJP’s claims, Congress spokesperson Americai V Narayanan said that it is irrelevant to talk about BJP in the present situation. He attributed the increased vote share of the BJP to the absence of NOTA in the urban local body polls.

“I don’t understand how BJP leaders feel emboldened to make such comments after the results. Because in 2006, DMDK founded by Vijayakanth had managed to change the final results of about 50 assembly constituencies and it had the vote share of about 8 per cent. The DMDK’s performance in fact forced the late AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa to strike a deal with the party during the 2011 elections. But nothing of that sort has happened now,” said Sathyamoorthy, a political observer.

He said that the proclamation of BJP could be accepted if only it had managed to win at least one municipal chairman post even if not corporation mayor post. “It has managed to bag just one seat at West Mambalam in Chennai and that is mainly because of the strong Brahminical presence in that locality,” he added.

Even though the vote share is not spread across the state for the BJP, it has increased marginally in the state, said a political analyst, Sriram Seshadri, pointing out that the party’s vote share is close to 8 per cent in Chennai where it had contested in all 200 wards.

“It is the non-committed vote base that has turned into BJP’s vote in this election and the non-committed vote base is close to 40 per cent in the state,” he said.

Sriram said that the BJP is concentrating only on certain districts and needs to work harder on ground and strengthen its party structure to establish its presence across the state especially in Delta and northern parts of the state, which earlier leaders have neglected.

Pointing out that the party’s seat share is highest in Kanyakumari district, he said that it is because the party managed to do counter polarisation in the district by uniting the people who are affected due to minority appeasement of the political parties. “There was a time when Hindu Munnani used to have a strong presence in the district. But, now, the BJP is gaining a presence there,” he added.

Explaining that BJP had spread its wings in western Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal by doing counter-polarisation, he said that similar technique works in Tamil Nadu as well.

“Even though the BJP had not won any seats in the town panchayat – Thirukattupalli – in Thanjavur district where a school student allegedly ended her life after she was forced to convert to Christianity, its voting percentage has increased considerably. It is because of the counter polarisation, thd party’s presence was seen in Coimbatore after the 1998 bomb blast,” he explained.

The districts that border the neighbouring states like Kerala and Karnataka, have always been the stronghold of national parties because of the presence of linguistic minorities and reflection of national sentiments, Sathyamoorthy said and added that before BJP, Kanyakumari used to be the stronghold of the Congress and the CPI(M).

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