Bengaluru/Delhi: For Annamalai Kuppuswamy, a 2011-batch IPS officer who resigned from service last year and took the political plunge Tuesday, the BJP was the “perfect fit”.
“PM Narendra Modi has risen from humble beginnings and I am inspired by his life. The BJP is the only party that inspires me,” Annamalai told ThePrint, hours after he joined the party in the presence of national general secretary P. Muralidhar Rao and Tamil Nadu BJP president L. Murugan.
“I am a big fan of Modiji,” he had told reporters at an interaction following his induction. “He shows me that a common man can aspire to reach the top and achieve the goal, and he does not need to come from any dynasty.”
An engineering graduate with an MBA from IIM-Lucknow, Annamalai once aspired to be an entrepreneur but shelved that dream in favour of a career in civil services “to remain connected with people”. And connect with people he did.
Over his eight-year career, he earned the moniker “Singham Anna” on account of his policing style. ‘Singham’, which means lion, seeks to draw a parallel between him and the supercop portrayed by Ajay Devgn in the eponymous 2011 film, and ‘Anna’ is a respectful term for brother.
Be it undercover crackdowns on gutka sale and campaigns against drug abuse, or his empathetic approach to a rape victim’s grieving mother, Annamalai’s work has earned him many admirers, besides a strong public image he brings to his new career as an asset.
Annamalai joined the police service in 2011, and his first posting took him to Karkala in Karnataka as assistant superintendent of police. Here, he spearheaded an awareness campaign against drug abuse and sale of tobacco, shutting down several illegal liquor shops.
He held seminars in colleges against drug addiction, and set up complaint boxes where students could post anonymous tips about illegal activities.
Between January 2015 and August 2016, he was posted as superintendent of police (SP) in Udupi district. It was during this stint that he investigated his first murder case, involving a 17-year-old student who was also raped by her assailants.
Speaking to ThePrint, Annamalai said the teenager’s grief-stricken mother had looked him right in the eyes and asked if he could bring back her daughter.
“I was stunned,” he added, saying he told the mother that he would not only punish the culprits, but also make sure her daughter’s memory lives on. The alleged culprits, a duo aged 19, were arrested within two days, and Annamalai instituted a Rs 10,000 scholarship in the victim’s name, given annually to the girl who tops Class 10 in the Byndoor taluka.
While still in Udupi, Annamalai once walked over to a provision store and asked for cigarettes, gutka and bidis. When the shopkeeper gave him the stuff, Annamalai immediately slapped a Rs 30,000 fine on him for selling the products despite their sales being banned at general stores. “I warned him… Pay this amount today or you will end up paying a lakh tomorrow,” he told ThePrint.
It was during his tenure in Udupi — located near Bhatkal in the neighbouring district of Uttara Kannada — that Annamalai developed a deep interest in Islam, he said. Bhatkal is a hotbed of Islamist radicalisation and the birthplace of the Indian Mujahideen.
Annamalai decided to study the religion to “understand what led to the misinterpretation of religious texts and caused widespread radicalisation”.
“I studied the Quran and Hadith with the help of the religious scholars. I tried to understand the philosophy. It helped me understand the psyche behind terror organisations like the Indian Mujahideen, SIMI and ISIS that had spread its tentacles around the Bhatkal-Kundapura region,” he said.
The next transfer took him to Chikkamgaluru until October 2018.
In 2017, the area, rife with communal tensions, witnessed riots after a group of miscreants vandalised the Dattatreya Bababudan Swamy Dargah. As the superintendent of police, Annamalai organised several peace meetings to defuse tensions.
He was serving as the deputy commissioner of police, Bengaluru South, when he decided to quit in 2019.
In his resignation letter, Annamalai said it was not a sudden decision but a well-thought-out one rooted in a 2018 trip to Kailash Mansarovar. The death of a respected senior helped the realisation take a deeper hold.
“My trip to Kailash Mansarovar made me introspect. The death of IPS officer Madhukar Shetty, 47, in December 2018, made me look back at my life,” he had told ThePrint at the time.
‘A fan moment’
Annamalai’s colleagues speak of him in glowing terms, with IPS officer Rahul Kumar Shahpurwad suggesting that he courts a star’s image among colleagues. When Annamalai announced his resignation, Shahpurwad said, “several of my colleagues began taking selfies with him”.
“It was like a fan moment for all of us,” he added.
He said he realised the level of influence Annamalai has when a complainant in his jurisdiction — Hassan — specifically called for him to lead the case. Annamalai was then the superintendent of police in the neighbouring district of Chikkamagalur.
“I felt bad as it was my jurisdiction, but I also had admiration for Annamalai sir, whose influence went beyond his jurisdiction,” Shahpurwad said.
When he was transferred to Bengaluru along with Annamalai and four others, he said, the headlines read, “Annamali and five others transferred”. “That’s how he is,” he added.
Annamalai’s seniors praise him as well. S. Murugan, who currently serves as additional commissioner for Bengaluru city (East Division), said Annamalai is known for “three Hs — honesty, humaneness and hard work”.
‘Bringing BJP nationalist spirit to Tamil Nadu’
Annamalai, who joined the IPS as part of the Karnataka cadre, is a native of Tamil Nadu. His induction into the BJP comes about a year before the state heads for assembly elections in the summer of 2021 — the first election since the death of political stalwarts Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK and M. Karunanidhi of the DMK.
The BJP, a fringe player in Tamil Nadu, is in alliance with the ruling AIADMK in the state.
Asked if he will be the party’s CM candidate, or will handle another similar responsibility within the party, Annamalai said he has joined the BJP as “a loyal foot-soldier” and will work to “bring the party’s nationalist spirit to Tamil Nadu”.
Talking to reporters in Delhi after his induction Tuesday, he invoked the ancient Tamil text Thirukkural to describe Modi as a true leader.
“I come from a land which is historic and, in this beautiful Thirukkural, it talks about the qualities a king and an administrator should have. It talks about fearlessness, it talks about courage, it talks about (having a) giving spirit, it talks about knowledge. I see all four of these in our Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji and all the eminent people of the BJP,” he said.
“I have decided that I should strengthen the movement that the party stands for.. to bring that nationalist spirit to the state of Tamil Nadu,” he added. “I will try my best as a loyal soldier of the party to dedicate my time and energy to further this cause across Tamil Nadu and India… It is a privilege to join the BJP.”
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