Years ago, when Tamilisai Soundararajan told her father Kumari Ananthan, a veteran Congressman and Kamaraj loyalist, of her plans to join the BJP, it came as a rude shock to him and other members of his family.
“It shook him so much that he stopped speaking to me for six months,” she said on Sunday, adding that he then spoke to her only intermittently for about two years.
Ms. Soundararajan, who has resigned as the State unit president of the BJP, and from its primary membership, vividly recalled the beginning of her political journey and the personal problems it created within her staunch Congress-supporting family.
On Sunday, when congratulatory messages poured in from across the political spectrum following her appointment as the Governor of Telangana, one thing was clear – she was the political product of hard work and loyalty. Despite hailing from a political family, she had to prove her mettle like any other BJP worker and face multiple electoral defeats.
She is only the second female political leader from Tamil Nadu to be appointed the Governor of a State, after Congress’ Jothi Venkatachalam (Kerala Governor in 1977).
A doctor by qualification, Ms. Soundararajan was appointed the BJP State unit’s first female president in 2014, after Pon. Radhakrishnan was inducted into the Union Cabinet. Though the party did not have a base here, she ensured that the BJP remained in the limelight with her spirited slogan, Thamizhagathil Thaamarai Malarndhey Theerum (The Lotus will definitely bloom in Tamil Nadu), ignoring ridicule.
She secured a second term. Often a target for sticking to her party’s central leadership’s stands on various issues concerning Tamil Nadu, she was also subjected to vile comments on social media, with meme creators mocking her appearance.
Engaged with media
Ms. Tamilisai engaged with the media on a regular basis, answering the most difficult and embarrassing questions about the BJP’s policies without any qualms. Unafraid to take on even the biggest leaders of the State, she has often lashed out at DMK president M.K. Stalin and his party, while defending the decisions of the AIADMK — the BJP’s alliance partner.
She, however, courted controversy last year, when she filed a complaint against Lois Sofia, a research scholar, for raising slogans against the BJP government at the Con board a Chennai-Thoothukudi flight. She was among those who demanded that scenes that had references to the Goods and Services Tax and the Digital India initiative of the BJP government at the Centre be cut from the Tamil film Mersal .
Soon after her elevation, several aspirants for the post of BJP State president kept their fingers crossed.
While Mr. Pon. Radhakrishnan would not mind another term, party leaders said both he and Ms. Soundararajan belonged to the Nadar community, and hence, he may not make the cut.
Party State secretary K.T. Raghavan, a Brahmin, was being backed by some leaders for the post, while former AIADMK Minister Nainar Nagendran, a Maravar, was also fancying his chances.
Another aspirant is State general secretary Vanathi Srinivasan, who unsuccessfully sought a party ticket for the recent Lok Sabha polls.