K Annamalai. Photo courtesy: Free Press Journal

Political observers were keeping a close eye on the Coimbatore Lok Sabha seat this time around because Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Tamil Nadu state president K. Annamalai was in the fray. He was expected to win the seat due to his charisma and the party’s increasing popularity in the state, even though the BJP had no alliance with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) for the general polls.

K Annamalai. Photo courtesy: Free Press Journal

However, Annamalai lost by a margin of over one lakh (100,000) votes. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) candidate, Ganapathy Rajkumar, got support from electors. The AIADMK Singai G. Ramachandran finished third.

Following is some of the possible reasons that may have led to Annamalai’s unexpected performance in the Coimbatore constituency:

  1. AIADMK and DMK had a tacit understanding

AIADMK’s Ramachandran came in third. What has surprised many is that he only received 17.23 percent of the vote on a seat that was thought to be among the party’s strongest.

From left to right: DMK's Ganapathi P Raj Kumar, BJP's K Annamalai, AIADMK's Singai Ramachandran. Photo courtesy: Free Press Journal
From left to right: DMK’s Ganapathi P Raj Kumar, BJP’s K Annamalai, AIADMK’s Singai Ramachandran. Photo courtesy: Free Press Journal

Coimbatore is located in the Western Tamil Nadu region, which has been dominated by the AIADMK. The AIADMK went to town, claiming that Coimbatore is a stronghold held by S P Velumani, a local AIADMK MLA and party leader. As a result, the low vote share has raised questions about whether the two Dravidian parties, the DMK and the AIADMK, had a tacit agreement to defeat Annamalai.

  1. Complete consolidation of minorities

It seems that the minority communities — Muslims and Christians in particular have united completely behind the DMK. After severing ties with the BJP, the AIADMK had hoped to capture some of the minority vote.

It even declared that the party would protect minorities like the “eyelid protects the eye”, demanding the release of Muslim prisoners serving lengthy sentences (including those found guilty of involvement in the Coimbatore blasts of 1998). However, it appears that none of this has helped the AIADMK.

That being said, this was not wholly unanticipated. BJP state secretary S G Suryah had said that Muslim communities could use tactical voting to unseat Annamalai.

  1. Rural areas weakest point

For the majority of the day, Annamalai was about 30,000–50,000 votes behind DMK candidate Raj Kumar. However, the margin began to widen when the votes from assembly segments with a large number of rural and semi-urban areas, like Sulur and Kavundampalayam, started to be counted.

Once more, this was seen as one of the difficulties prior to the elections. Even though the anti-Modi wave in rural areas had subsided by then, a senior BJP leader claimed that they still had ardent DMK and AIADMK supporters. He had stated that the BJP faced difficulties because the AIADMK had strong second- and third-rung leaders in those regions.

  1. Annamalai’s limited campaign time

It was slightly less than a month before the elections that Annamalai declared his candidacy. He was obliged to travel throughout the state to campaign for other party members and the NDA alliance, which limited the amount of time he could devote to Coimbatore, even though this was also true for many other candidates. Annamalai’s supporters argue that he could have benefited from more time.

K. Annamalai campaigning in Bhandup and Tembipada Gaondevi, Coimbatore. Photo courtesy: Free Press Journal
K. Annamalai campaigning in Bhandup and Tembipada Gaondevi, Coimbatore. Photo courtesy: Free Press Journal

DMK candidate Ganapathi P. Raj Kumar received 568,200 votes, claiming the first position. K. Annamalai received 450,132 votes to finish second. The BJP leader captured 32.8 percent of the total vote in the constituency.

(The article is published under a mutual content partnership arrangement between The Free Press Journal and Connected to India)