4/20 And A Return To State Assembly After Two Decades: What Next For BJP And The Hindutva Movement In Tamil Nadu?

by Aravindan Neelakandan - May 3, 2021 06:44 PM +05:30 IST
4/20 And A Return To State Assembly After Two Decades: What Next For BJP And The Hindutva Movement In Tamil Nadu? Newly elected members to the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly belonging to the BJP
  • If the exit-polls suggested a total absence of Hindu consolidation in Tamil Nadu, the actual results show a significant level of it at the political level.

The 2021 election results for the legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu have thrown up interesting results.

The DMK openly employed ‘Indian Political Action Committee’ or I-PAC of Prashant Kishor and started the campaign work long before AIADMK — in fact almost four years before the election campaign had started.

It started with the Jallikattu agitation. There was no I-PAC then in the field, but anti-Modi forces, feeling that with the death of both Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, the BJP might come up as a credible alternative, started working on an emotional narrative against Modi.

Though the Jallikattu ban was imposed by the UPA government, of which DMK was an integral part, the narrative set was that the "Aryan-Brahminical BJP" had banned the "Dravidian Jallikattu".

This was the beginning. Since then, incremental emotional campaigns against the BJP were ran throughout – from a false campaign on the Keeladi excavation to baseless allegations of Hindi-imposition.

The Tamil Nadu BJP, however, never countered it effectively, even as the PM did his part plus more for the dissemination of the culture and heritage of Tamils.

Then came the DMK's alliance, forged with powerful allies – not political but ideological, forces that were working behind the scenes.

Many actors and actresses, the literati and so-called intellectuals and not to mention the media – digital and print — were also their allies.

The AIADMK, on the other hand, was not very sure about its principles.

At times, its government acted and then hesitated. Yet on the whole, it performed exceedingly well despite some hiccups on the pandemic front and the government functioned without major scandals.

The very fact that it survived so long is in itself an achievement.

Yet, it carried the weight of 10 years of incumbency though it avoided a visible anti-incumbency wave.

Given all these factors, the election should have been a cake-walk for the DMK alliance. As many opinion polls and later exit polls predicted, it should have been a sweep.

But that did not happen and the marginalisation of AIADMK also did not come true.

So, today, the DMK is in power with a powerful opposition, which is actually the NDA.

Both Modi and Shah emphasised this aspect clearly.

This suggests that the BJP could possibly be looking forward to working with AIADMK as its political partner in the coming years.

One wishes the AIADMK reciprocates the gesture, stays strong and not blame the alliance with the BJP as the reason for its electoral setback.

Now for the Tamil Nadu BJP.

If the exit-polls suggested a marginalisation of the NDA/AIADMK+ or a total absence of political Hindu consolidation, the actual results show a significant Hindu consolidation at the political level.

It is significant, but not strong enough to stop the workings of anti-Hindu forces.

Nonetheless, these forces have been definitely bolstered by the victory of DMK.

It is in this context that the victory of four BJP candidates to the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly becomes significant.

This is not the first time Hindu organisations have sent their members to the TN Legislative Assembly.

In 1984, an independent, V. Balachander, supported by explicit campaigning by Sangh Parivar organisation ‘Hindu Munnani’ (Hindu Front) was elected from the Padmanabhapuram constituency of Kanyakumari district.

That was the first time a person with a visibly Hindutva background entered the assembly and created a visible impact.

Then, in 1996, he was elected from the same constituency and was the first BJP candidate to be elected to the TN assembly.

After the infamous tea party of Dr. Swamy and the fall of the Vajpayee government, the BJP moved into an alliance with the DMK in 1999.

While this alliance did help the BJP come to power and run a stable government from 1999 to 2004, it also created a degenerative impact on the party in the state.

In the 2001 elections, the ruling DMK, which was then in alliance with the BJP, lost to AIADMK, which had then moved close to radical Islamist movements for electoral benefits.

However, piggybacking on the DMK helped BJP send four candidates to the TN assembly.

The DMK-BJP alliance was uncomfortable and artificial and yet included benefits for both—for the BJP a stable government and for the DMK, a share in power.

Yet in terms of ideology, the DMK was against BJP.

While from 1984 to 1996, there had been a gradual Hindu consolidation in the state, the 2001 state elections showed that the consolidation was not strong enough.

So, the DMK decided to part ways almost three years after the elections. For the BJP from 2001 onwards, Tamil Nadu has been a downward journey.

However, this election results are different.

The AIADMK and BJP formed a natural alliance. The party founder, Dr. MGR, was not averse to Hinduism. In fact, as researcher and author Ma. Venakatesan points out, he accepted some of the core Hindutva principles.

He had openly expressed concern about demographic siege against Hindus and thought of implementing a law against fraudulent conversions. He never attacked Hindu customs and traditions like the DMK leadership used to do.

He had an appeal cutting across all communities — a kind of pan-Hindu image. So an AIADMK-BJP alliance is a natural one, beyond political equations.

The mercurial attitude of Jayalalithaa created a lot of strains in that, however. But slowly, both sides have overcome the obstacles.

Can the four seats that the BJP got through DMK's support in 2001 be compared to the four seats it got with the AIADMK as its senior alliance partner in Tamil Nadu in 2021?

The answer is no.

In 1999, the DMK-BJP alliance for Lok Sabha had won 26 out of 39 parliamentary constituencies in Tamil Nadu. So, in 2001, there had been a carry-over effect for that alliance.

In the case of the 2019 parliamentary elections, the AIADMK-BJP partnership could get only one seat.

Between 2019 and 2021, there have been visible vicious attacks on Hindu culture and traditions.

The attacks on Kanta Sashti Kavacham by a youtube channel, the attacks of VCK etc. and the hue and cry against temple mismanagement and also the brutal murders by Jihadists of Hindus as in the case of Ramalingam – all have created a strong consolidation of Hindus.

The four victories have to be significantly attributed to this along with the contribution of alliance partners.

Now, the performance of the four MLAs in the assembly should set the tone and the way they serve society outside the assembly should set the tone at a bigger stage for a Hindutva consolidation in the state for the coming years.

In Coimbatore South, Vanathi Srinivasan proved to be a fighter and trounded Kamal Hassan.

In Nagercoil, M.R. Gandhi's victory came more than three decades after it should have.

It has been an unexpressed feeling among all voters in Kanyakumari district that he was defeated in 1984 in an unethical manner.

His victory was snatched from him. Yet he persisted. His simplicity, honesty and commitment to Hindutva and hence his love for all people cutting across religion and ideology, make him one of the finest human beings one can ever come across.

Through his victory, the BJP has gifted TN assembly with a future legend who would be compared with Kamaraj and Kakkan.

Nainar Nagendran from Tirunelveli is another person who understands the practical dynamics of the Dravidian political landscape.

Dr. C.K. Saraswathi, a doctor who defeated a DMK giant, Subbulakshmi Jagatheesan in Modakkurichi , has associated herself with Sangh activities for three decades.

Naturally, she is known for her humanitarian services through free medical camps and educational services for society.

With this team of four, the BJP now has to make sure that through their work, the next TN assembly has a sizeable saffron representation.

What should be done, then?

Hindutva organisations at large and the four MLAs in particular should consider the following:

· Tamil Nadu has a strong but usually silent Jihadist infrastructure. The DMK, given its alliance with radical Islamists and ideological orientation that favours Islamism, may free the jailed Islamists under the pretext of "good conduct" and occasions like national days. It has done so in the past.

The Hindu organisations should monitor these developments and raise their voice democratically and legally – both inside and outside the legislature.

· Tamil Nadu, despite the 1998 bomb blasts and sustained killing of Hindu activists by the jihadists, has not convicted most of the high-profile radical Islamists.

There is a strong possibility of political interferences weakening the ongoing cases. So, the demand should be to hand over all the cases related to radical Islamists to national investigation agencies and taking these cases out of Tamil Nadu.

· The MLAs and Hindu leaders should up the demand to free temples from state control. The most effective means to do that is not just asking the government body of HR&CE to quit the temples but constantly exposing the mismanagement of the temples, the destruction of the artistic and spiritual heritage etc. with video evidences.

· Given the fact that the DMK is ideologically inimical to Hindu Dharma, every year, the Hindu organisations should come out with Hindu human rights reports for Tamil Nadu for the next five years, district-wise. The MLAs should take a lead in releasing these reports and they should involve the local Hindus as well as Sangh Parivar workers.

· Hindu organisations should also monitor the cultural appropriation attempts which would now double in their frequency and intensity. Proper democratic, civil and legal resistance should be offered and again the MLAs' participation should be a must.

· The MLAs should also scrutinise the DMK's publication of archeological reports and textbooks and look for anti-Hindu content as well as mischievous misrepresentation and falsified data. They should create widespread awareness of these aspects in the media.

· The Tamil media is highly compromised with respect to political neutrality. Hindu organisations should, to the extent possible, boycott them.

Fortunately, at considerable personal risk, young people like Maridhas, Madhan Ravichandran and Rangaraj Pandey have come out with alternate media.

S.G. Suryah too has done a wonderful job in alternative media movements.

Unfortunately, most of the time, the BJP leaders themselves consider the hostile corporate media as "prestigious and classy" and ignore the emerging alternative media. They also face quite a lot of personal risks – from violent attacks to vendetta.

The Hindu organisations, particularly in Tamil Nadu, need to bury all their petty biases, ego-problems and even caste biases and work harmoniously with these upcoming media and make them big.

One should remember that Nakeeran began as worse than a sleaze magazine and yet, due to constant promotion by DMK, has grown into a strong (yet ugly) media phenomenon.

· Expert handling of social media should be a must for the elected MLAs. Hindu organisations and social media experts can provide them inputs, guidelines and workshops for those whom the MLAs choose as their social-media handlers.

· One can be sure that now the four BJP MLAs will be targeted by the media of Tamil Nadu – both English and Tamil.

So the MLAs should be very careful about what they talk, even in off-record talks with such media persons. They should never encourage the media persons to their houses. They should keep their contacts absolutely professional.

In the past, the personal contacts of media persons have been unethically used by media houses to create negative images of the Hindu leaders. So, the MLAs have to be extra-cautious.

· Last but not least, the BJP and their strategists should once and for all, eschew the fantasy of piggybacking on the shoulders of ever-hesitant selfish yesteryear super-stars.

This movement — the Hindutva movement — has enough balidhannis and sacrifices through whom it can derive real strength. The ‘spiritual politics’ of hip-gyrating, chain-smoking matinee idols can be of no match to that.

It was a sorry sight when Narendra Modi as a prime ministerial candidate was made to go and visit the house of a superannuated movie star and not the family of balidhanni Auditor Ramesh.

And it is not at all in the least the fault of the aforesaid actor. We cannot gamble with the enthusiasm and frustrations of party workers during a crucial election to pander to the whims and fancies of an actor known for his inability to take decisions.

So, honour thy balidhannis and run not behind mirages of power shortcuts — this is the message to the BJP if it ever wants to be a serious player in Tamil Nadu.

Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.

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