A video clip of a speech by senior Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP Dayanidhi Maran regarding Hindi speakers, made in 2019, went viral on social media yesterday (24 December).
According to the English subtitles in the clip, he could be heard saying that people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, who learnt only Hindi, were coming to Tamil Nadu and doing menial jobs like cleaning roads and toilets, while those who had learnt English were having jobs with good salaries in IT companies.
It was widely circulated by members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The speech was condemned by Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which is a member of the Congress-led INDI Alliance, like the DMK. Yadav is also the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar.
BJP leaders from Bihar like Ravi Shankar Prasad, Shahnawaz Hussain and Sushil Modi too condemned the remarks.
Subsequently, even more video clips of old speeches of DMK leaders about Hindi speakers and north Indians have been circulated.
These include a speech in which DMK organising secretary R S Bharathi saying "North Indians are fools" and another by former higher education minister, K Ponmudy, who was recently convicted in a disproportionate assets case, stating that those learning Hindi were coming to Chennai and selling panipuri.
These rants of the DMK leaders have put the party in an uncomfortable position given as it is a member of the INDI Alliance, which must do well in the largely Hindi-speaking northern parts of India if it has to come close to unseating Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, the demeaning rhetoric against Hindi speakers by the DMK will be hard to explain in north India, where its allies, especially the Congress, will struggle to convince voters how it does not subscribe to such views despite being in the same grouping with the Dravidian party.
This is not the first time that the INDI Alliance has been put in a position of discomfort by the DMK.
Earlier this year, Chief Minister M K Stalin's son Udhayanidhi Stalin's comments against Sanatana Dharma gave the BJP an opportunity to cast the entire INDI Alliance as anti-Hindu. Even as the Chief Minister tried to manage the fallout, Ponmudy stated that the alliance was formed to oppose Sanatana Dharma.
Then came as DMK organising secretary R S Bharathi's remarks on Nagas and Dharmapuri MP D N V Senthilkumar's use of the 'gau mutra' jibe while speaking about the BJP's victory in Hindi heartland states, in Parliament.
While DMK leaders have stated that the anti-Hindi comments were from old speeches and questioned the need to circulate them now, the BJP seems to have decided to use these against them close to the elections as Udhayanidhi Stalin's remarks calling for the eradication of Sanatana Dharma is being seen by many to be one of the reasons for the defeat of the Congress in elections to Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
The DMK is clearly on the defensive after being hit back by their old speeches.
What doesn't help the DMK is that the BJP has also chosen to do so at a time when the Tamil Nadu government is plagued by allegations of corruption and mismanagement of floods in Chennai and the southern districts, thus making it a double whammy for Chief Minister M K Stalin and the party.
S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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