Annamalai takes study leave to Oxford, as BJP plans 2026 Tamil Nadu polls

A month after the BJP came up with zero seats in the Tamil Nadu Lok Sabha elections, state chief K. Annamalai is reportedly heading to the UK for a sabbatical under the Chevening Gurukul Fellowship for Leadership and Excellence at the University of Oxford.

Annamalai’s sabbatical has triggered talks that the leader may be upset due to insufficient support from senior leaders and differing views on contesting the 2026 assembly elections in an alliance. Annamalai has been advocating for the BJP to contest alone, a stance that sparked a confrontation with the AIADMK that culminated in their split ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. His comments criticising AIADMK leader and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa were a major reason for the AIADMK severing its ties with the party ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

According to several reports, the three-month fellowship for Annamalai was on the horizon even before the election results. The programme, scheduled to run from mid-September to December, will engage young leaders with leadership potential. Annamalai has reportedly sought approval from the high command to participate in it. Despite leading an ambitious campaign in Tamil Nadu, which included frequent visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior BJP leaders, Annamalai lost his seat in Coimbatore.

Despite the Lok Sabha loss, the 39-year-old leader credited his aggressive style of campaigning for strengthening the BJP’s presence in Tamil Nadu and garnered the party’s support. In 12 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP-led NDA finished second, outperforming the AIADMK.

A BJP leader mentioned that Annamalai is looking forward to embracing this fellowship as a much-needed break to freshen up after the elections and his massive ‘En Man, En Makkal’ march. He sees this break as beneficial for his broader ambitions, the leader was quoted as saying.