Will PM Modi's Makkal Move Break BJP's Tamil Nadu Jinx?

2024 Lok Sabha Poll will show whether the people of Tamil Nadu are willing to welcome a party that has long been considered a Hindi belt party by vast sections of the state.

Bhupendra Chaubey
New Update
Modi's TN Push

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent interview with a Tamil news channel has stirred significant speculation about the BJP's strategic maneuvers in Tamil Nadu.

"I go to Tamil Nadu not just for votes. To build a developed India, we need developed states. Tamil Nadu is at the forefront of this," he said.

With this interview, PM Modi, arguably the best political communicator of our times, has come up with another blockbuster strategic move.


There is merit in what the PM is saying. If India is to become a part of the developed world, Tamil Nadu has a critical role to play. As of today, Tamil Nadu stands as the second-largest state economy in India, contributing 8.8% to the national GDP. In FY 2023 alone, Tamil Nadu's state GDP is estimated to have expanded to $294 billion.


In the ten-year period before Covid-19, Tamil Nadu had clocked an average annual growth rate of 11%. At this rate, by India's centenary of independence, Tamil Nadu alone could achieve a Gross State Domestic Product of up to $2.6 trillion.


Modi has repeatedly emphasized how he, rather than Nehru or any preceding Prime Ministers, is the real champion of independent India. He recently pointed out that he was the first Prime Minister born in independent India. Therefore, to realize his economic vision for India, he needs the BJP to be a principal force in Tamil Nadu.


And that's where the BJP's trouble begins. From 1999 to 2019, the BJP's vote share has largely been in single digits. Both the BJP and Congress have formed alliances with the Dravidian parties. In 1999, the BJP allied with DMK, which won 26 seats with a 47% vote share. In 2004, the BJP switched sides, joining hands with AIADMK, resulting in the loss of all seats to DMK, a principal reason for the Vajpayee government's defeat. In 2009 and 2014, the BJP didn’t ally with either Dravidian party. In 2019, it supported AIADMK and won one seat.


Year BJP's Alliance Dravidian Party Seats Won by Dravidian Party Dravidian Party's Vote Share
1999 DMK DMK 26 47%
2004 AIADMK DMK 39 -
2009 None - - -
2014 None - - -


Modi on AIADMK 

During the interview, the Prime Minister fondly recalled the late CM of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalitha, stating, "I held Jayalalitha in high regard. She was among those who supported me since 2002."


In a bid to overcome these challenges, the BJP initially appointed the youthful K Annamalai as its party president. Now, he has been nominated to contest on a BJP ticket from Coimbatore, a region where the BJP has consistently been the runner-up.


From navigating the Sengol to Parliament, which garnered significant attention in Tamil Nadu, to making a pilgrimage to Rameshwaram ahead of the inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, to addressing the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, PM Modi has left no stone unturned.



Furthermore, the PM raised the issue of the cession of Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka during Indira Gandhi's tenure as PM, while M Karunanidhi served as the CM of Tamil Nadu. His remarks have sparked heated rebuttals from the Congress.


Caste dynamics 


So, what does the BJP need to do to inject a dose of hyper-nationalism in a state like Tamil Nadu? Caste and religion are factors in the state, but unlike the north, the caste angle is taken care of by Dravidian parties. According to the 2011 census, Tamil Nadu has a population of 7.2 crore, with 68% OBCs, 20% SCs, 1% STs, and the rest upper castes. The state has almost 88% Hindus, including SCs and STs. Muslims make up close to 6%, and Christians another 6%. A significant portion of the 6% Christian population comprises Dalits. 


Demographic Group Percentage of Population
OBCs 68%
SCs 20%
STs 1%
Upper Castes 11%
Hindus 88%
Muslims 6%
Christians 6%
Christian Dalits Significant Portion of Christian Population

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, a post-poll survey conducted by CSDS and Lokneeti revealed significant insights into voting patterns. Despite the DMK's landslide victory, securing 38 out of 39 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP saw a marginal increase of 2% in its vote share. Notably, the BJP garnered support from various caste groups, including Thevars (21%), Gounders (20%), SCs (13.2%), upper castes (8.7%), STs (2%), and a minimal percentage from Muslims and Christians. In contrast, the DMK-led UPA received substantial backing from SCs (47%), Muslims (40.4%), Vanniyars (38%), upper castes (26.6%), and STs (25.7%). These voting trends reflect the diverse socio-political landscape of Tamil Nadu and underscore the BJP's efforts to broaden its appeal across different caste groups in the state.


Political Party/Caste Thevars Gounders SCs Upper Castes STs Muslims/Christians
DMK - - - - - -
BJP 21% 20% 13.2% 8.7% 2% 1%
DMK-led UPA - - 47% 26.6% 25.7% 40.4%


The potential alliance with megastar Rajinikanth was seen as a potential game-changer, although his return to cinema has left BJP's prospects uncertain.


The 2024 Lok Sabha poll will show whether the people of the southern state are willing to welcome a party that has long been considered a Hindi belt party by vast sections of the state.