The Jallikattu protests in Tamil Nadu are unprecedented. A protest which started as a demand to revoke the ban on the bull taming sport snowballed into avenue for the youth to express their collective anger against the political establishment.
One thing is certain — it has shaken political parties, both at the state and Centre. Such has been the jolt for the regional parties, including the ruling AIADMK — which is yet to stabilise after Jayalaithaa’s demise — that after the initial tepid reaction to the protests, they’re trying align themselves with efforts to lift the ban. Another thing that is certain is that it has affected the BJP the most and extinguished what little political chance it had in Tamil Nadu.
The BJP cannot be held responsible for the ban on Jallikattu, but its inaction on the ban before Pongal, on the second week of this month, has weakened its prospects in the state like never before. To start with, the national party only had a toehold in the state.
Even without this current setback, the BJP, which is seen as a “Hindi party”, was finding it hard to expand in Tamil Nadu. Over the decades the Dravidian ideology might have considerably diluted, but not enough to erase the anti-Hindi sentiments — a feeling that has been revived with the Jallikattu protests.
The demise of Jayalalithaa last month has led to political uncertainty in the ruling AIADMK. The appointment of O Panneerselvam as chief minister and VK Sasikala as general secretary of the party might have fixed things for the moment, but the party is not yet out of the woods. Even if the BJP, as some allege, was trying to capitalise on this situation, the recent developments have put that to an end.
Some compare the Jallikattu protests to the anti-Hindi agitations of the sixties in the state — while that might be a bit exaggerated, there have been not many instances in the recent past where such organised apolitical fervour has been expressed.
The AIADMK will try to project the ordinance as its victory and the DMK will criticise the government for the delay and stick to its script as an Opposition. But the BJP will have to rethink its strategy if the party is serious about its options in the state. Its political relevance in Tamil Nadu is better than the AAP and the Congress—but that’s really cold comfort.