BJP President Amit Shah arrived in the Tamil Nadu capital today for a one-day visit during which he is set to energise grassroots level functionaries ahead of next year's Lok Sabha polls and meet a cross-section of leaders, party insiders said. Shah, who was met with a rousing welcome by party cadres, will hold an interactive session with members of the Sakthi and Maha Sakthi Kendra, which comprise the grassroots support of the party.
While a Sakthi Kendra in-charge is vested with the responsibility of overseeing the party work of five booth level functionaries, a Maha Sakthi Kendra office-bearer is the overseer for five Sakthi Kendra functionaries. Hoardings, festoons and banners welcomed Shah along the route from the airport on till the venue of the meeting on East Coast Road in the suburbs. Describing the about 15,000 kendra level party workers as the pivot of the BJP at the crucial grassroots level, party sources told PTI that the key group of workers needed to be heard and energised.
"The kendra workers have the task of ensuring enrolment of more and more members. Also, they have been asked to have a personal touch with the people. This is crucial work for any party," said a senior functionary working with kendra volunteers. Though there are functionaries at several other levels, including the party apparatus at the district, town and union level, the role of kendra workers is significant, he added. Shah will also meet with an administrative committee of the party set up for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu.
The BJP chief will interact with those in charge of the party in each of the 39 Parliamentary seats in Tamil Nadu and the lone seat in neighbouring Puducherry. The party has appointed two office-bearers (one designated as in-charge and another an organiser) for each of the Parliamentary seats. Besides, Shah will meet office-bearers from the Union territories of Puducherry and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The BJP president is also set to meet office-bearers from Sangh Parivar outfits, including the Hindu Munnani which was credited with doing complementary fieldwork during the polls in Tamil Nadu, said a party leader.
BJP Tamil Nadu unit president Tamilisai Soundararajan termed the visit of the party's national chief a "big morale booster" for workers. The saffron party in Tamil Nadu has been trying hard to make a dent in the largely bipolar Dravidian politics dominated by the ruling AIADMK and the principal opposition DMK. The party is hoping to make inroads with the political scene in Tamil Nadu witnessing a churn after the death of AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa in 2016 and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi becoming politically inactive in view of his age.
As part of its efforts to become electorally significant in Tamil Nadu, the BJP had also tried to woo top Tamil actor Rajinikanth into its fold. The actor, however, did not respond to the overtures is expected to launch his own political party. Another leading matinee star, Kamal Haasan, has launched his political outfit Makkal Needhi Maiam. The political innings of Haasan and the expected political entry of Rajinikanth are significant as they come following a perception of a political vacuum in view of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa fading away from the scene. Against this background, the BJP is hopeful of expanding its footprint beyond its traditional stronghold in several pockets of Kanyakumari district.