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Lok Sabha polls 2024 | Middle class completely shifted, BJP will get 60% votes in Coimbatore: Annamalai

His campaign speeches lavishly praise the Prime Minister and tears into the DMK, while references to AIADMK are almost non-existent.
Last Updated : 13 April 2024, 16:29 IST
Last Updated : 13 April 2024, 16:29 IST

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Coimbatore: At 12.15 pm on April 11, in the sweltering heat in Masakalipalayam here, BJP cadres, holding party flags and ‘Lotus’ symbol, and the general public patiently wait for K Annamalai’s cavalcade to arrive. The former Karnataka cadre IPS officer’s campaign is two hours behind the schedule.

Clad in a white shirt with En Mann, En Makkal (My Land, My People) engraved on it and a dhoti, Annamalai, along with local leaders, arrives at the spot and waves at the crowd.

People jostle with each other to click selfies with him, and shake hands with him – after a few minutes, the 39-year-old BJP candidate from Coimbatore takes the mic to apologise to the people for having made them wait in the sun and says he will keep his speech short as he has to cover another 20 points before 10 pm.

“Our Modi ji has ruled India for 10 years and he needs another five years. The country is determined to give him and the BJP 400 seats. Since Tamil Nadu votes in the first phase, Coimbatore should be one of the first to contribute to the BJP’s tally. If I get elected, I will be the hotline between you (people) and the BJP government in Delhi,” Annamalai says.

He then trains his guns on the previous MPs who represented Coimbatore, including incumbent P R Natarajan, seeking to know their contributions to the city. “The CPI(M) which won in 2019 has given the seat to the DMK this election. Why?,” he asks in Masakalipalayam, which is a part of Singanallur, from where AIADMK candidate ‘Singai’ G Ramachandran hails.

He then attacks the DMK for proclaiming that its candidate Ganapathi P Rajkumar will usher in development in Coimbatore. “Do you think one MP from DMK will be able to do what the Chief Minister, his ministers and MLAs couldn’t do in 33 months?” he asked the crowd.

Calling himself the ‘son of the soil’, Annamalai talks about drug menace in the state and promises to open an office of the Narcotics Control Bureau in Coimbatore within 100 days of his election as the MP.

Atop the specially designed campaign van, Annamalai waves at people as his cavalcade proceeds to the next stop where he asks those gathered to vote for him on April 19 to “make Coimbatore no.1 city in India” and appeals everyone to vote for the first name (Annamalai) on the EVM machine.

The convoy then moves into residential areas in Singanallur assembly constituency where people come out of their houses and factories to take a glimpse at Annamalai.

Ganesh, an entrepreneur who had come to Annamalai’s campaign, told DH that people should give the “young leader” a chance as it is “almost certain” that the BJP was going to come back to power this election.

Ganesh is not the only person to say this as the campaign moved from one place to the other, many are “confident” that Modi will be back as prime minister and asked why they shouldn’t vote for the BJP. “We believe Annamalai is bold and is not scared of asking questions to the ruling government here. Youngsters like him should get a chance,” Saravanan, a college student, said.

At the society colony, dominated by Naickers, the caste to which the AIADMK nominee belongs, bank employee Krishnamoorthy tells DH that he would vote for Ramachandran. “The BJP campaign has reached here only today. Many people here will vote for the AIADMK,” he added.

The Tamil Nadu BJP chief gets down from his campaign van to shake hands with people, accept garlands, and visit temples. In most places, young boys and girls seek his autograph while women ask for a selfie, which he obliges.

His campaign speeches lavishly praise the Prime Minister and tears into the DMK, while references to AIADMK are almost non-existent.

At 4:30 pm, the convoy reaches Chellandiamman Kovil against the scheduled time of 1:10 pm and Annamalai apologizes to the waiting people for having come late. When someone from the crowd tells him that the area has a good number of Kannada speakers, Annamalai switches to the language.

By the time the convoy stops for lunch, it is already 5:30 pm. After an hour, Annamalai gets atop the vehicle to proceed to Nanjundapuram where his attack on the Dravidian parties gets sharper.

“Do you get drinking water at least every five days? I know you get it only once in 15 days. Is it possible for you to reach your destination without navigating a pothole on the road? We pay our taxes to the civic bodies, but nothing happens,” he tells the crowd.

Navigating the by-lanes of Singanallur, Annamalai’s convoy reaches Peelamedu, dominated by the middle-class, in the heart of Coimbatore, where TDP leader Nara Lokesh was waiting for him. In an area dominated by Naickers, Lokesh speaks in chaste Telugu by asking people to vote for Annamalai to give Modi a third term as Prime Minister even as the time nears 10 pm.

Annamalai doesn’t speak after 10 pm due to restrictions imposed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) but he climbs atop the vehicle at regular intervals to wave at people and shake hands with them in many localities. Inside the van post-10 pm, Annamalai tells DH that the BJP will poll 60 per cent of votes in Coimbatore.

When asked where he gets the confidence to say this, Annamalai replied: “Middle class have completely shifted to the BJP. The silent voters who generally keep their mouth shut have decided to speak this time. Except for the party-centric votes, I believe the common people’s votes will come to us.”

Prime Minister Modi campaigned in Coimbatore twice – a roadshow in March and a public meeting in April – amplifying how the BJP central leadership was investing much in Tamil Nadu and in Annamalai. Asked whether the BJP sees him as the party’s future in the state, the former IPS officer said all he wants to do is “shorten” the time frame for the BJP to come to power in Tamil Nadu.

“This is the opportune time for BJP to emerge in Tamil Nadu and we have done a lot of groundwork. When a party like BJP contests in 19 seats on its own and four allies in its symbol, it is not a joke. It clearly shows the party’s reach due to hard work over the last many years,” Annamalai said and thanked the Prime Minister for his “efforts” and “time.”

To a question on the BJP’s performance, Annamalai was confident that the BJP will “outperform” every political party individually in Southern and western Tamil Nadu. “I am putting this on record. BJP’s performance in both the regions will surpass everyone's expectation because we have penetrated very well into the ground. Our vote share will be 25 per cent,” he claimed.

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Published 13 April 2024, 16:29 IST

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