Know Your Turncoats, Part 4: In Tamil Nadu, 50 percent defectors in BJP-led NDA

A series looking at the defectors contesting the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

WrittenBy:Nikita Singh& Sumedha Mittal
Date:
Illustration of a woman unfolding a pack of cards with party logos and UNO reverse.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu, a handful of opposition politicians seem to be joining the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, which contested from five seats in the 2019 polls and won from none.  

In the current chapter, the alliance is contesting on all 39 seats in TN. At least 15 former MLAs and one former MP joined the saffron camp amid allegations of the Modi government “forcing” opposition leaders to join the alliance.    

In the past four months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited the state six times, with a seventh visit planned soon. He also gave his first interview to a Tamil news channel Thanthi TV, and also raked up the 50-year-old Katchatheevu dispute. 

Notably, over the last 20 years in the Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu, the party’s vote share has never crossed 5.5 percent. It has won only one MP seat over the last four elections. This time, the party has fielded prominents faces like TR Paarivendhar, Tamilisai Soundararajan, and K Annamalai.

Out of a total of 18 turncoats in phase one, eight are contesting in Tamil Nadu – three as AIADMK candidates, one in DMK, and four in the NDA.

Here’s how the BJP has fared so far in the state.

In parts one and two of this series, we looked at the defectors in Rajasthan, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Bihar. In the third part, we brought out the details of the turncoats in AIADMK and the DMK. 

Now, who are the turncoat candidates from Tamil Nadu in the NDA?

KP Ramalingam: Ex-MP, Lutyens’ dweller, one case

KP Ramalingam is the BJP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Namakkal constituency.

The 68-year-old Namakkal native won his first election as an AIADMK candidate in the 1980 assembly polls. He then hopped to the DMK, which later expelled him for “anti-party activities”, and then joined the BJP in 2020, where he’s presently state vice-president.

 He trained in veterinary medicine but clocked an income of over Rs 55 lakh through farming, rent and pension.

Ramalingam was also a Rajya Sabha MP from 2010 to 2016, and resided in a Lutyens’ bungalow during the last 10 years, as per his affidavit. He trained in veterinary medicine but clocked an income of over Rs 55 lakh in the previous fiscal year through farming, rent and pension. As of 2024, his assets stand at Rs 4.35 crore, including over Rs 3.52 crore movable assets. His wife’s wealth almost equals his.     

The politician has one pending case, related to “damaging place of worship” and “assault”.   

The cover image on his X account – which goes by the name ‘KP Ramalingam Ex-MP’ – is a picture of him with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His feed is flooded with mentions of Modi and BJP TN chief Annamalai. His first post is from March 2022, when he took charge as the BJP Tamil Nadu vice-president.  

P Senthilnathan: Ex-AIADMK, now AMMK, MBA from Wales  

P Senthilnathan is the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazagam’s Lok Sabha candidate from Tiruchirappalli.

The 47-year-old is a sitting councillor and the AMMK’s Tiruchi urban district secretary. An MBA graduate from the University of Wales, he has listed agriculture and “information and communication technologies” as his occupation in his affidavit. It earned him an income of over Rs 19 lakh in the fiscal year 2023. As of 2024, his wealth stands at Rs 7.04 crore, of which he has properties worth Rs 6.75 crore, including agricultural land. 

An MBA graduate from the University of Wales, he has listed farming and IT as his occupation.

The Tiruchi resident began his political career in 1996 with the AIADMK, where he remained for about 22 years. When rebel leader TTV Dhinakaran left the AIADMK to form the AMMK, Senthilnathan went with him. He has one pending case against him for “unlawful assembly and wrongful restraint”. His affidavit features signatures of 10 constituents who “proposed” his nomination.   

Newslaundry could not find his social media footprint though he regularly appears on news channels. In his maiden Lok Sabha polls, he is contesting against pro-jallikattu activist D Rajesh of Seeman’s Naam Tamilar Katchi and against MDMK’s Durai Vaiko, son of the party’s founder Vaiko. 

The MDMK is in alliance with the governing DMK. Meanwhile, the AMMK – which allied with the SDPI in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls – has now joined hands with the BJP-led NDA with party chief Dhinakaran pledging “unconditional support to the BJP”. This despite the BJP having previously accused Dhinakaran of bribery, while the latter once slammed the saffron party for “insulting freedom of expression”.    

TR Paarivendhar: 82-year-old education entrepreneur, party hopper

TR Paarivendhar is the Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi’s candidate from Perambalur. The IJK is part of the BJP-led NDA this election.

Paarivendhar, 82, is a familiar face in Tamil Nadu as the founder of SRM Group of educational institutions. He entered politics in 2014 by forming the IJK, with its main aim being to “abolish corruption and anti-social activities”. 

The one constant in Paarivendhar’s life is his wealth, which stands at Rs 92 crore at present.

Since then, his politics have been marked by unpredictability. In the general election of 2014, he fought on a BJP ticket from Perambalur but lost by over two lakh votes. In the 2016 assembly polls, his party partnered with the BJP again but did not win a single seat. Frustrated, IJK allied with the DMK in the 2019 general elections, with Paarivendhar himself contesting on a DMK ticket. The sun finally rose on his party and he registered his first victory by a landslide. 

Perhaps Paarivendhar is confident now, because he’s chosen to return to the BJP fold to contest in Perambalur this year. Weeks after he rejoined the NDA, he hit out at late DMK supremo M Karunanidhi over the Katchatheevu dispute, claiming Karunanidhi was clearly “never concerned” about Tamil Nadu by allowing the island to be given to Sri Lanka.

The one constant in Paarivendhar’s life is his wealth. His assets grew from Rs 77 crore in 2014 to Rs 92 crore in 2024 – a jump of 20 percent.

O Panneerselvam: 49 years in AIADMK, 2-time CM, now BJP-ally

O Panneerselvam is an independent Lok Sabha candidate, backed by the BJP, from Ramanathapuram constituency.

It’s been a melancholy descent in politics for the former chief minister, once Jayalalithaa’s right-hand man and selected twice by her to fill in as CM when she had to step aside.

 In July 2022, the veteran leader was expelled from AIADMK over “anti-party activities”.

OPS, 73, joined the AIADMK in 1973, and remained with the party for 49 years. He was CM from 2001 to 2002 and then again from 2014 to 2015. In July 2022, he was expelled over “anti-party activities”. 

The expulsion came seven years after Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016, soon after which he was removed from the CM post. The veteran politician, who has risen from the ranks of municipality chairman to a prominent figure in TN politics, even moved the top court against his expulsion but to no avail. Another blow was the Madras High Court and Supreme Court ruling against him in favour of Palaniswami, permitting EPS to serve as general secretary of the AIADMK. 

The leader has reportedly been “desperately wooing” the BJP, which was far more inclined to try and patch up with its former ally, the AIADMK. In March, after AIADMK chief Edappadi K Palaniswami reiterated that his party would not partner with the BJP, the BJP finally reached out to OPS and his faction. 

OPS will now contest as an independent candidate backed by the BJP. He was reportedly “disheartened” by the BJP’s hesitation and also hit out at Palaniswami, saying he was running the party like a “dictator”, and also promising to retrieve Katchatheevu island. His social media account indicates he’s an aggressive campaigner, constantly posting videos of his road shows.

The politician has no educational qualifications as per his affidavit. His assets jumped by 1,614 percent over the last 15 years – from Rs 35 lakh in 2011 to Rs 6 crore in 2024.    

Will Modi realise his dreams of Dravidians? Is TN really seeing a ‘three-cornered’ fight this election? Read here.  

Also see
article imageKnow Your Turncoats, Part 3: 8 defectors in Tamil Nadu, 3 in AIADMK and 1 in DMK
article imageKnow Your Turncoats, Part 2: RJD candidate with 16 cases, a doctor, ex-prof from a Congress family
article imageKnow Your Turncoats, Part 1: 18 in phase 1 of polls, half of the defectors in NDA
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