In an alarming development, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) on 7 January addressed a secularism protection conference in Madurai, organised by the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which is believed to be closely linked to the now-banned Islamist group, Popular Front of India (PFI).
They are likely to have an alliance in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
This is being seen as the latest in a series of moves by EPS to protect the party as one that has stood for the welfare of minorities after breaking alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). (More on them later)
While the SDPI has denied links to the PFI, the threat of Islamist forces getting a mainstream platform due to an alliance with the AIADMK is real.
According to a investigative report by India Today, PFI cadre have regrouped physically as well as online and assimilated into the SDPI.
The report further quoted Chand Pasha, the Chikkamagalur district president of the PFI, before it was banned as saying, "Some of the PFI members are in the SDPI. And some of the SDPI members are in the PFI. Everyone isn’t here (in the PFI) because it's a Muslim-only organisation whereas the SDPI also has Hindus and Dalits."
Nellai Mubarak, the state president of the party, who was seated with EPS, was recently raided by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the investigation into the murder of Ramalingam, a Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) functionary, who reportedly opposed conversion of villagers to Islam.
The SDPI was involved in protests against the Hijab ban, Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and farm laws. It has also demanded the reconstruction of Babri Masjid.
Some of the steps taken by EPS to portray the party as 'minority-friendly' include the demand to release Muslim prisoners who have been serving long sentences in prison, (amongst whom some were involved in the 1998 Coimbatore blasts) and a prayer room for Muslims in the Vellore prison.
His remarks stating that Muslims should vote for the AIADMK as it had quit the alliance with the BJP as per their wish and that his party would be the first to protect the minorities like the 'eyelid protects the eye' were widely shared on social media.
The AIADMK is strong in western Tamil Nadu, a region that has a history of Islamist violence. 58 people lost their lives and over 200 were injured in the 1998 Coimbatore blasts.
The city was witness to a car bomb blast a day before Diwali in 2022 outside the Sangameswarar Temple in Kottaimedu. Jameesha Mubeen, the terrorist who was driving the car, died in the blast. The plan was to carry out a suicide attack.
If this partnership comes about, both the major Dravidian parties would be in alliance with Islamist parties and this does not bode well for the state.
The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is already in alliance with the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) led by M H Jawahirullah and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which is also an important part of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in neighbouring Kerala.
S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
An appeal from Swarajya
At Swarajya, we rely on our readers' support through subscriptions to sustain our media platform. Unlike larger conglomerates, we are unable to relentlessly chase advertising money — our model is largely built on your patronage.
Your support has never been more crucial. We work tirelessly to deliver 10-15 high-quality articles daily, ensuring you receive insightful content from 7 AM to 10 PM.
If you believe India's story has to be articulated in a way it has never been done before without shrugging it off, become a patron (or) subscribe now for ₹̶2̶4̶0̶0̶ ₹1999 and get 12 print issues, unlimited digital access for 1 year, a special India that is Bharat T-shirt (Offer ends soon).
We are counting on you!