With the BJP winning four assembly seats in Tamil Nadu in the recently-held polls after a gap of two decades, the party’s state unit chief L Murugan appears to have earned his stripes as he was inducted in the union cabinet on Wednesday. When Murugan became the Tamil Nadu president of the saffron party in March 2020, he had his task cut out as he had barely a year to prepare the party to face the assembly polls the following year.
Given the social milieu of Tamil Nadu, with the undertone of Dravidian ideology in every sphere of life, it is no easy task to lead a national party with a Hindutva mooring. But, Murugan unlike his predecessors, did not shy away from picking ‘soft Dravidian’ ideology if warranted, all along maintaining his party’s nationalist vision.
For instance, last year, on social reformer ‘Periyar’ E V Ramasamy’s birth anniversary he said there was no second opinion that the late leader slogged for social justice. He had said the party had no hesitation in extending its greetings on the occasion.
Political analyst M Bharat Kumar said Murugan was a good strategist who came up with the ‘Vel yatra’ (spear, a weapon of Lord Muruga) campaign last year that helped the BJP to galvanize its workers and it was a good initiative to mobilise public opinion on an issue seen as sensitive.
Defying government ban and opposition from groups like the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, ‘Vel yatra,’ was held last year by the BJP. The matter also went to the Madras High Court. Dalit leader Murugan’s elevation as BJP state unit chief, after Tamilisai Soundararajan, also showed that it honoured hard work and talent which helped it in its bid to reach out to more new voters, Kumar said.
On Murugan’s elevation, commentator and political analyst, Sumanth Raman said it appeared to have happened due to a combination of factors. A representation for Tamil Nadu in the Cabinet is one aspect, and “he worked extremely hard and that is a fact, which has helped BJP get four seats in the Assembly though he himself lost by a narrow margin", he said.
BJP spokesperson Narayanan Tirupathi said, “Murugan is a hard worker, very active and an energetic young man, he took it as a challenge when he was entrusted with the state party leadership and he proved himself."
A grass-roots level worker for over 20 years, Murugan was with the RSS and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad before joining the saffron party and he is well known for his organisational skills. He lost the assembly polls from Dharapuram (Reserved) constituency by a narrow margin of 1,393 votes.
As a DMK partner, the BJP had won four assembly constituencies in 2001 polls and after a hiatus of two decades, it managed to repeat it this year in alliance with the AIADMK. The 44-year old advocate, hailing from Tamil Nadu’s western Namakkal district, has been the vice chairman of the National Commission For Scheduled Castes before he was appointed BJP state unit chief.
He is expected to be elected to the upper house of Parliament from a BJP-ruled state. A postgraduate in law, he did his doctorate in human right laws.