Super Star Rajinikanth’s 1992 movie Annamalai was a blockbuster and it catapulted him to dizzying heights. Tamil Nadu BJP’s similar attempt to create a blockbuster – Annamalai with a resigned cop however turned out to be a damp squib.
Annamalai IPS, a native of Karur who belongs to one of the dominant community in Tamil Nadu the gounders. He rose to fame after he put down his papers from IPS in May 2019, at an young age. Being an young IPS officer with a long career ahead, Annamalai’s sudden resignation surprised many. But none of his peers had any suspicion. An officer of Annamalai’s batch, on condition of anonymity said, “Right from day one, Annamalai’s target was political power and nothing less. He viewed the civil service as inferior when compared with the political power. He understood that the real power lies in politics. That is why he carefully cultivated an image for him wherever he served”.
True to that officer’s words, Annamalai meticulously built his image and that is how he got the nick name “Singham Annamalai”. He relished such titles and encouraged creation of fan pages in FaceBook. During 2017, a vehicle of a family got broke down in forest road in Chikkamagaluru. Annamalai who crossed that place in his police vehicle could have directed his driver or gunman to assist the vehicle. But, he changed the flat tyre himself and ensured that photographs of his changing the tyre went viral in social media and in the local media.
#IPS officer #Annamalai tries to change the #tyre of a #tourist vehicle which had broken down in the heart of the forest in #Chikkamagaluru pic.twitter.com/R8ahVLYQlS
— Lakshmikantha B K (@LakshmikantKTOI) December 29, 2017
When he was posted in coastal districts, Annamalai grew cozy with local politicians, particularly with RSS leader BL Santhosh. The RSS’s clout in Karnataka’s coastal belt is well known and coastal areas are communally very sensitive. Annamalai’s handling of the communal issues with a tilt towards the Hindu right made the RSS lay its eye on Annamalai whom it considered as a potential leader.
Apart from Annamalai there are many IPS / IAS officers who are right wing sympathisers like TN cadre IPS officer Sandheep Mittal, Karnataka cadre IPS Officer Roopa, Bihar cadre IPS officer Nageswara Rao. But, their right wing affiliation and religious bigotry are only aimed at currying favours, perks and postings. But Annamalai’s was a different game altogether. His aim was to become a mass political leader.
Annamalai’s closeness with BJP leader BL.Santhosh got him a meeting with Amit Shah and Annamalai offered to resign and join BJP. However, as per the instruction of RSS and Amit Shah he was asked to wait for an appropriate time. Right after he met Amit Shah somewhere around January 2019, where Annamalai expressed his ambitions to contest in the Lok Sabha polls on a BJP ticket, he was asked to wait, say sources. The BJP wanted him to be used for Tamil Nadu where the party is not able to gain a foothold in spite of its strenuous efforts.
The May 2019 election results saw the BJP being wiped out in Tamil Nadu against the national wave in favour of it. Many of the BJP candidates lost deposits and its alliance partners lost the election with margins in lakhs. It was at this time, Annamalai was asked to put in his papers and he resigned in the last week of May 2019.
As per the standard modus operandi of the RSS, Annamalai was asked to start an NGO in his native district Karur with a ‘nationalistic touch’ and Annamalai started “We the Leader” foundation. In his founder message, Annamalai says “The foundation is being started by like-minded individuals with the aim to contribute our part in making our society and in turn our country great. To do that we aim to instil a culture of honest conversation, open dialogue and being the change that we want to see”.
He goes on to add that “his simplicity over the years has got disturbed because of many reasons viz the sense of corruption that has crept in, politicians who speak in a way and act in a different way, when we get zero or close to zero returns for the taxes that we pay and importantly when we are always cynically divided in the name of religion and other million divisions that we have and never see ourselves as an Indian, or a Tamil or a Kannadiga or our other larger identities. This over a point in time has made all of us cynical, made us accept corruption and we were always longing and looking for the next messiah to come and save us.”
Annamalai’s message as a founder has the standard touch of RSS written all over it. ‘Corruption, progress, one nation, etc.’ Remember the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement ? All those who were in the forefront of Anna Hazare agitation are now in the BJP, except Kejriwal who has grown to be a soft sanghi.
Annamalai never had any inhibitions in singing hosannas to Narendra Modi. Though he had been narrating many interesting tales as to his ambitions of ‘natural farming’, indigenous economy, etc. he had made his awe for Modi clear as early as October 2019.
In an interview to Daiji World in Kuwait, Annamalai had this to say : “There is Tsunami in India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When there is Tsunami, there is change in movement of tectonic plates. When great leaders rile, such things happen. When Ashoka, Maurya, Babar and Akbar ruled in India, such developments were noticed. Same thing is happening now. The fundamentals of the country are changing now”
Annamalai went to the extent of comparing Modi with Moghul kings Babar and Akbar.
However, Annamalai’s subsequent interviews have now come to haunt him. In an interview to DaijiWorld in January 2020, Annamalai asserts that he has no plans to join the BJP. He said, “I am a big fan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I believe that the nation needs decisive leadership and the time has come. The leadership needs to focus not only on securing the border but on economy, creation of jobs and more. We are going through a critical time, and all over the world countries are facing problems. Everyone says that I am a Modi fan, so I will join BJP. Absolutely not”.
The plans of RSS suffered a collapse when they understood that their trojan horse for Tamil Nadu, Rajinikanth has no inclination to take the plunge, at all.
Annamalai is part of RSS plans to make Rajinikanth identify someone educated, tech savvy, with a clean image as CM. Kindly recall Rajinikanth’s last full fledged press meet in Chennai during March 2020. Rajini said, “I will be a party leader and the CM will be someone who is a youngster, educated, and has vision and self-respect. The party leader will work like an opposition leader. If they (elected representatives of the party) don’t listen, we will remove them, but it won’t be a parallel government. This is my plan”. In the same meet, he also said, “My prospective party would focus on including a substantial amount of youngsters in the age group of below 45 years while the rest would comprise retired judges and IAS and IPS officials among others. I myself would reach out to them and invite them”.
Even last month, Annamalai gave an indication which confirms the plans of RSS. In an interview to Indian Express, Annamalai said, “In the next two-three months, after Rajinikanth announces his party, we will get to know his policies, what changes he wants to bring into this system, etc. Let us give him some space and then we can discuss his plans. And I cannot disclose anything about the discussion between Rajnikanth and myself. Right now, I have a task in my hand, we are doing something for the betterment of farmers and the younger generation. We need to complete that task before heading to another one. I am also waiting for Rajini sir to come and announce his plan and then I will take a call.”
However, sources indicate that Rajini has apparently refused even to endorse Annamalai for reasons that are not clear. And the RSS quickly changed tack and inducted Annamalai into its fold. Rumours were already rife that Annamalai would be joining the BJP formally before Amit Shah in August or early September. Given the health condition of Home Minister Amit Shah, Annamalai finally joined the BJP last week in the presence of Muralidhar Rao and later met party National President JP Nadda.
Though the RSS & BJP had grand plans with Annamalai for its grant entry into Tamil Nadu, their plans have failed to take off. Indeed their ‘Operation Annamalai’ had turned out to be a huge flop show. Annamalai’s series of interviews to various media outlets in Tamil Nadu has made him a laughing stock and he has become a troll material.
BJP spokesperson Narayanan Thirupathy has a different perception. Speaking to this author, Narayanan said, “Lot of youths are attracted to BJP. A number of schemes of the BJP in the past six years has attracted a lot of youth to the party. Only on this line, the young officer Annamalai has joined the party. Annamalai will be an inspiration to several youth and many more will join the party I am sure. Annamalai is really an asset to the BJP” said Narayanan.
However, senior journalist RK Radhakrishnan had a different take. “Like how a bull is trained before the major jallikattu event, there was no preparation in the case of Annamalai by the sangh parivar. The way they made ‘Kandhar Sashti Kavasam’ a big issue shows their meticulous preparation. While the RSS & sangh parivar are adept in creating religious issues, they are poor in preparing people before they take a major plunge.
Annamalai should have been coached well about Dravidian politics, TN history, and counter narratives to take on the DMK & other parties. But it has not been done it seems. Annamalai has been overrated by the right wing it seems.
His first two interviews were a disaster. But since the traction on social media was good, largely because of RW handles and IT wing, it appears that the leadership were fooled by this. They did not get the true picture of the ground reaction to Annamalai’s interviews. By the time the BJP realised the ground reality, the damage was done and his formal joining turned out to be a dud.” said RK Radhakrishnan.
Whether the confidence expressed by BJP spokesperson Thirupathy Narayanan will work or not remains to be seen.
It is apparent that Annamalai has clearly been posturing to strike a chord with the top rung of the BJP. His uncompromising adulation to Modi and careless handling of the issues relevant to Tamilians in all his interviews goes to show that he is looking at a shortcut to enter the national scene (as ex-bureaucrats generally do) for an executive position. He will certainly be insincere to the Tamil Nadu cause and toe the RSS line. In the coming days, he will be presented by the BJP as a rational face to the people of Tamil Nadu and will try to replace social justice with merit and elitism.
Whatever the BJP plans are, but as of now, TN BJP’s grand launch of “Operation Annamalai” has turned out to be a damp squib.