A day after the results of the Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is struggling to answer a tough question: why was it able to win only one seat in Tamil Nadu on its own when the party romped home at the national level.
The loss of the Coimbatore seat to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam seems to be pushing the party towards some soul-searching. The candidate who lost the seat – C.P. Radhakrishnan – is a former State president of the BJP and hails from the neighbouring district of Tirupur, its present State secretary G.K.S. Selvakumar and treasurer S.R. Seghar too are based in Coimbatore.
Yet, the party lost this very seat that it had won twice – in 1998 and 1999 (both by Mr. Radhakrishnan).
Party sources said the entire rank and file was downcast over the results in the State. The Coimbatore result was a blow too hard to stomach as the BJP had already lost The Nilgiris seat before the polling because of the nomination of its candidate S. Gurumurthy being rejected.
They pointed out that the first setback came in the form of delay in cobbling an alliance and announcing candidates. While the alliance was being struck, the BJP was forced to give up seats, such as Salem, that it ought to have contested. This gave an impression that the party had no say in the State even for a Parliament election.
Even before the campaign could take off, the groupism in the Coimbatore unit came to the fore with one section demanding that Mr. Radhakrishnan’s choice as candidate was wrong. This group was said to comprise supporters of Mr. Selvakumar.
Then came the disqualification of The Nilgiris candidate S. Gurumurthy and the consequent charges that he was bought by either the AIADMK or the DMK.
Party sources said that above all these, there was no homework done on the rural votes especially when the urban area of Coimbatore is not large enough to provide compensation.
On Saturday, Mr. Radhakrishnan admitted that only the urban voters backed him. “Our party’s presence is not felt in most of the rural areas across the State and Coimbatore is no exception,” said the former State president. The margin of loss was less only because he got a large number of the urban votes, he said.
Mr. Selvakumar shared this view on the rural votes. He also said the AIADMK government had invested well in the rural votes with the freebies, indicating that this could have effectively countered the Modi wave.
On party sources saying that the Dalit votes had gone to the AIADMK, Mr. Selvakumar said the BJP would have to work hard on endearing itself to the rural masses and the Dalits in both urban and rural areas.