BJP can’t scale Dravidian wall

There is pent-up anger at other forms of BJP imposition

Days before several states went to the polls on April 19, Prashant Kishor, the nation’s leading soothsayer, forecast that the BJP, a rookie in Tamil Nadu politics, is going to stun the nation by carrying off at least 16 of the 40 seats in TN (including one in Puducherry). On the other hand, Dayanidhi Maran, speaking for the DMK, has sneered at this suggestion, describing the BJP in TN as “a keyboard warrior” that thinks elections can be won on social media platforms and the internet without feet on the ground.

The BJP has additionally invested heavily in Narendra Modi, believing that his numerous visits to TN will more than make up for the near absence of any interest in the BJP in the past. There is also hope in the local leadership of the TN BJP president, K. Annamalai, a 40-year-old former IPS officer who is the new kid on the block. Third, there is the BJP’s alliance with the PMK, a party that claims to represent the extremely backward community of the Vanniyar, whose numbers are quite significant in the north of the state but electorally not significant. Fourth, flogging Katchatheevu, an issue resolved half a century ago. And fifth, thinking the sengol, placed by the speaker’s chair, will kindle Tamil pride. It doesn’t. It is a symbol of Brahmin domination.

Illustration: Job P.K. Illustration: Job P.K.

How does this face up to the ruling DMK whose alliance won 38 of the 39 seats in the state (plus Puducherry) in the 2019 Lok Sabha election? “Very poorly” would be the common sense response to that question. It is astonishing that any political commentator, however eminent, could believe differently now. For one thing, while the Dravidian movement took indigenous roots since more than a century ago when the Justice Party was formed, hindutva is an alien political philosophy with little or no resonance in the state. The Justice Party challenged the domination of the Congress in the 1920s. But by the 1930s, the Dravidian movement was radicalised by Thanthai Periyar E.V. Ramasamy Naicker and taken to the streets to demand “equality” in a society dominated by a tiny percentage of Brahmins, basing themselves on religion. Logically, therefore, the movement also became atheistic. While EVR’s refusal to participate in the narrower political field enabled Rajaji to form a Congress government in 1937, once the Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha received the Rajaji provincial government’s backing, EVR undertook a long march from Trichy to Madras that sparked the Dravidian refusal to accept the imposition of Hindi on the state. This also sparked a parallel movement to return to the chen Tamizh (classical Tamil) of a rich cultural past, which added to the momentum of alienation from the Sanskritic and vedic propagation of an India that excluded the Dravidian Tamils, who were also racially distinct from the Aryans of the north. How can the BJP, representing the quintessence of everything the Dravidian movement rejects, turn the tables on this bastion of Dravidian assertion?

There is also the pent-up anger at other forms of BJP imposition, such as NEET and the forthcoming delimitation, which might reduce TN seats for dramatically regulating its population growth while rewarding UP, the worst performer in family planning, by increasing its seats from 80 to 140.

Moreover, atavistic vengeance on our mediaeval history, which is at the core of hindutva, is so absent from Tamil sentiment that the Dravidian movement has no bias against Muslims. As Dayanidhi says, “DMK is 100 per cent for secularism”. The minorities are “born here. They are part of India. Hence, the Ram Mandir issue has little traction”. And as for the Gujarat model and the UP “double engine”, Dayanidhi pertinently asks if these are so successful, “Why are people from UP and Gujarat coming to Chennai to work?” Good question! Round One to INDIA.

Aiyar is a former Union minister and social commentator.