Bharatiya Janata Party's Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay is elated over the warm response of the man on the street to a 'north Indian' leader and his campaign for giving greater national recognition to Tamil poet sage Thiruvalluvar.
Vijay, a former editor of RSS mouthpiece Panchajanya, is happy he has been accepted 'so warmly' by the people in Tamil Nadu – students, artists, writers and the common man – and their belief in his "genuine love and affection" for the Tamil language, culture and rich heritage that "unfortunately could not gain the national recognition it ought to have".
Vijay, who was in Chennai after participating in the Kural yatra as part of Thiruvallur's birth anniversary celebrations earlier this week, said "it was a life changing experience for him".
The yatra started from Kanyakumari and passed through Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Villupuram and Chennai.
"My effort has the support of the party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is releasing Thiruvalluvar's biography in Gujarati," he told Hindustan Times to indicate that the party was fully behind the move to accord greater national recognition to Tamil language, culture and heritage.
A Rajya Sabha member from Uttarakhand, Vijay is perhaps one of the very few leaders from north India to bat for Tamil language in Parliament and felt that people from north should learn Tamil or any other language. His special mention, made in the Upper House in July last year, sought encouragement of the government to urge people of north India to learn any one south Indian language through a free choice option.
He is demanding the introduction of Tamil, and other languages, in schools in north India.
"This would strengthen national unity," he said.
Vijay knows only a few Tamil words but has engaged a tutor in Delhi to learn the language.
"In Tamil Nadu, it was a spontaneous upsurge of people, who believe in my commitment to Tamil language with which I fell in love," Vijay said denying there was any "political game plan" in his campaign.
"I am here to make the people of Tamil Nadu understand the north and to remove mistrust in their minds," he said.
The next step in the campaign is to build a Tamil learning centre at Dehradun and help set up similar centres elsewhere in the country for other Indian languages as well.
Vijay's assertions notwithstanding, his move is being seen by opponents as a clever ploy by the RSS and the BJP to soften the impact of the language issue that has caught the saffron party on the wrong foot.
The DMK does not tire reminding the people of the perception that the BJP is a north Indian party and tries to force Hindi on non-Hindi speaking people, time and again, even though opposition to Hindi as such is on a decline in the state.
The BJP, which led the NDA with five regional parties in the Lok Sabha elections, has turned its focus on Tamil Nadu. It has announced intentions to work towards a BJP-led government in Tamil Nadu, which is scheduled to face assembly elections next year.
DMK leader TKS Elangovan is convinced that Vijay's programme is only a political step to help the BJP get more Tamil voters on its side. It is not for nothing that the BJP is oganising huge meetings for Vijay.
"The RSS and BJP are using Tarun Vijay's campaign to shore up its chances, but it would not succeed. People would not be fooled as BJP talks of Hindutva, which is diametrically opposite of the Dravidian ethos," said Elangovan.
Elangovan further said, "He (Thiruvalluvar) is not on BJP agenda. And no other BJP leader will talk about Thiruvalluvar or Tamil."
In another context, DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi charged the BJP with playing communal politics and cautioned the people of Tamil Nadu to be watchful. He also reminded the people that the BJP central government was trying to foist Hindi and Sanskrit in schools.
BJP leader L Ganesan, however, rubbishes the charges and said the BJP has always supported local languages in all regions. The Thiruvalluvar campaign, he said, would certainly help the BJP.
Political analyst Ramu Manivannan of the Madras University was doubtful if Vijay's campaign could benefit the BJP in the assembly polls.
"People welcome and love Vijay's sentiments about Tamil and Thiruvalluvar. But they may not appreciate it if the BJP sought to use it politically," said Manivannan.