BJP’s Hindutva push not in line with Tamil Nadu ally AIADMK
- BJP leader Tejasvi Surya has called the DMK's ideology "anti-Hindu”.The problem is that the AIADMK , the senior partner of the alliance of which the BJP is a part, has the same beliefs and ideologies as the DMK.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s predicament in Tamil Nadu is best summed up by Tejasvi Surya, a Lok Sabha member from Karnataka who said on February 22 that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) “represents a bad, virulent ideology which is anti-Hindu”.
“Every Tamil is a proud Hindu. This is the sacred land that has the highest number of temples... Every inch of Tamil Nadu is sacred, but DMK is anti-Hindu, so we must defeat it,” he said at a rally in Salem.
The problem, of course, is that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the senior partner of the alliance of which the BJP is a part, has the same beliefs and ideologies as the DMK. Both are Dravidian parties that trace their provenance to a common parent, Periyar (E V Ramaswami), and his emphasis on rationalism and anti-Brahminism.
Over the weekend, home minister Amit Shah took on the DMK and the Congress at a rally on the issue of corruption. “The Congress and the DMK together carried out a scam of ₹12 lakh crore when they were in alliance at the Centre,” he said. Only, this is unlikely to cut much ice in Tamil Nadu — and not the least because Shah and the BJP are trying to convince their ally the AIADMK to take VK Sasikala, just back from serving four years in jail in a disproportionate assets case, into the fold.
These are just some of the contradictions the party has to manage in a state where it is a minor political player, and where it is seen as a Hindu and Hindi party. To be sure, the party, otherwise a vocal proponent of the Hindi language, has been extolling the virtues of Tamil in an effort to connect with Tamilians.
And both national and local leaders are hoping that what worked for the party elsewhere — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the emphasis on development — will work in the state.
Addressing a rally in Coimbatore last week, Modi’s speech combined the BJP’s ideological standpoint with issues of governance that the party perceives has a wider resonance on the ground in the poll-bound state.
The state will pick a new assembly on April 6.
Senior party leaders said the BJP will take advantage of PM Modi’s governance model to woo voters in the state, including those who are either opposed to the BJP or are ambivalent towards it. “There is a section of people that sees the BJP as a Hindu party that seeks the imposition of Hindi. There is also a section that is impressed by the BJP’s governance model in other states and at the centre. The party has to win the confidence of both these sections,” said a BJP leader who asked not to be named.
“The Vel Yatra was a sideshow. The discourse in Tamil Nadu has to be congruent to what the AIADMK, the senior partner in the coalition wants. The BJP’s stance should not dislodge the campaign,” the leader explained.
The BJP is also hoping the dynastic nature of the DMK (MK Stalin’s son is expected to contest the elections, even as this is the former’s first real electoral test after the death of his father M Karunanidhi), and its partner, the Congress, will be an issue with voters.
In a recent meeting, Shah said: “We can see 2G, 3G, 4G all in Tamil Nadu. 2G- 2 generations of Maran family; 3G -3 generations of Karunanidhi’s family; 4G- 4 generations of Gandhi family.”
Political commentator Sumant C Raman concurred that since the BJP is the junior partner in the alliance, it will have to adhere to a campaign narrative that suits both partners.
“...Also, in Tamil Nadu the hardline Hindutva stance will not help. The BJP has been smart, in keeping with the Dravidian ethos; instead of Lord Ram they have focused on Lord Muruga, which is why there was the Vel Yatra...,” he added.
The party is also carefully crafting its image as that of a political outfit that is not in not in conflict with the prevalent sentiment of pride in the Tamil language and customs.
A second BJP leader said the PM’s repeated reference to Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar over the years is an attempt to forge a connection with Tamilians.