Narendra Modi’s Chennai roadshow attracts strong crowd

Hoping for a 20-25 per cent vote share, the BJP amps up its Lok Sabha campaign in Tamil Nadu.

Published : Apr 10, 2024 19:20 IST - 5 MINS READ

In his seventh visit to Tamil Nadu this year, the Prime Minister campaigned for the State’s Lok Sabha candidates in an attempt to garner favour among the electorate.

In his seventh visit to Tamil Nadu this year, the Prime Minister campaigned for the State’s Lok Sabha candidates in an attempt to garner favour among the electorate. | Photo Credit: ANI

“We are here because we are excited to see the Prime Minister, the brightest leader in our country,” said Sangeetha, a resident of T. Nagar who was attending Narendra Modi’s roadshow in Chennai, Tamil Nadu on April 9. Prime Minister Modi commenced his two-day visit to the State with a roadshow that started from Panagal Park in T. Nagar and went up to Teynampet, a distance of about two kilometres. As the BJP tries to increase its vote share from the 3.6 per cent it scored in the State in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, its heavyweights have made a beeline for Tamil Nadu, with this being Modi’s seventh visit this year.

The BJP’s organising efficiencies were on full display at Modi’s roadshow, with the streets filled with people in saffron-coloured garments showering flower petals on the cavalcade and holding lotus emblems and cardboard cut-outs of the Prime Minister. Frontline spoke with some of the party’s State workers assembled in front of a popular eatery in Teynampet. Sathya, a member of the women’s wing of the BJP State unit, declared: “We (BJP) will win in India and in Tamil Nadu this time, I have no doubts about it.” Party workers of the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC), an ally of the BJP in Tamil Nadu for the election, were also present at the roadshow. “We believe in Narendra Modi and what he can do for Tamil Nadu and the country. There is no hope in the current ruling party [Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam],” said Peter, a TMC party member.

Also Read | PMK’s alliance with the BJP in Tamil Nadu defies logic

Panagal Park is one of the city’s premier shopping localities and a heavily crowded locality at the best of times. On April 9, it saw residents flocking in thousands to catch a glimpse of Modi, whose visit had electrified the air. There was palpable enthusiasm and one T. Nagar-based woman told Frontline that she was attending the event because of “excitement” and “patriotism”. “I look at India as a whole and not as different States. He [Modi] has brought remarkable improvements to the nation,” she said.

Modi was accompanied by BJP State president K. Annamalai and Tamilisai Soundararajan, the former Governor of Telangana, who is the BJP candidate for Chennai South, but it was clear that the crowd consisting of party members and residents had come for Modi.

Wooing Tamil Nadu

Speaking to Frontline, Ramaswamy Meiyyappan, political commentator and advocate in the Madras High Court, noted his “surprise” at the Prime Minister making his seventh visit in four months. “Their desperation is clear. More than the visits, it is his actions such as speaking about Tamil literature, praising Tamil culture, etc.,” he said.

Since 2019, the Prime Minister has made no secret of his attempts to woo the Tamil Nadu electorate. From choosing Mahabalipuram as the venue for an informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping to referencing Tamil literary works such as the Tirukkural in speeches; from launching “Kashi Tamil Sangamam” in 2022 to take pilgrims from Tamil Nadu to Varanasi to installing a sengol in the new Parliament building, he has left no stone unturned.

Assured that this onslaught of attention will have some results, the party decided to go alone this year with only minor allies, without the partnership of either Dravidian party. In 2019, as part of the front led by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the party secured 3.6 per cent of the votes with no seats. In the Assembly election two years later, it secured 2.6 per cent of the votes with four Assembly seats. Last year, AIADMK walked out of the alliance after BJP State president Annamalai made disparaging comments about Dravidian leader C. N. Annadurai and the party’s leading light, the late J. Jayalalithaa, besides making his own political ambitions clear.

Speaking to Frontline, Tamilan Prasanna, the DMK’s official spokesperson and joint secretary for media relations, called the roadshow a “farce” just before the election. “He [Modi] has made several visits to the State but has never spoken to people about their grievances,” he pointed out. He added that it was telling that the roadshow was organised in an already crowded locality like Panagal Park. Recalling the party’s alliance with the AIADMK, he said, “They speak a lot about alternatives to the Dravidian model when they are riding on whatever goodwill remains from the AIADMK alliance. I don’t believe they will win even one seat.”

The BJP does not share this pessimism. After nearly three decades, it has fielded nominees in all three Chennai constituencies: Tamilisai Soundararajan in Chennai South, R.C. Paul Kanagaraj in Chennai North, and Vinoj P. Selvam in Chennai Central.

Standing several feet away from the swarming crowd, Prasanna Kumar, a former member of the AIADMK, told Frontline that he is “no longer in favour” of the Dravidian Model of governance in Tamil Nadu. A native of Madurai, he was an AIADMK member when former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was alive but has now become disenchanted with both Dravidian parties. “Annamalai is a critical player to make change happen in Tamil Nadu. I am a firm believer in the BJP for the Centre and the State,” he said.

A bystander standing behind him, who spoke to Frontline on condition of anonymity, took the opposite stance, “There are no jobs anywhere, not even in the public sector, the (Central) government has not done anything for us in Tamil Nadu, I want them out.” Around half past six, the crowds that had been gathering from 4:00 pm, stood with their eyes fixed on the road eagerly awaiting Modi’s vehicle. They began shouting “Bharat maata ki jai” and “Modi, Modi” as the car with Modi, Annamalai, and Soundararajan passed by. A woman standing on the sidewalk said, “He has curbed corruption, he installed Ram temple in Ayodhya, he has done a lot for us. But he has much more to do.”

Also Read | In a blow to Modi’s national ambitions, AIADMK breaks up with BJP

Frontline spoke to BJP State secretary Suryah SG about the party’s expectations. “Our defeat in 2019 was due to the sweeping anti-Modi campaign spearheaded by opposition parties. This time, the people have accepted PM Modi as the supreme leader, so we are expecting a different outcome,” he said, defining it as a 20 to 25 per cent vote share.

Whether this will be achieved is to be seen, but the roadshow on April 9 proved that the BJP is leaving nothing to chance as it seeks to breach the tough Tamil Nadu bastion.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment