Shifting Sands in ‘Dravidian’ Land

    31-Mar-2021   
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DMK has tried to shed its anti-Hindu image by promising a lot for Hindu temples. The party wants to allocate Rs 1,000 crore for renovation of temples
 

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Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami at an election meeting in Chennai
 
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is known for its strident anti-Hindu stance. But, of late, things are changing in the land of Dravidian politics. This time around, the DMK’s Assembly poll manifesto promises a lot for Hindus. It promises to give village temple priests a raise in their salaries and pensions; providing them with a Pongal bonus. The party which once wanted to see the decline of temples and Hindu faith is now allocating Rs 1,000 crore for renovating temples; setting up an international centre in Vadalur (in Cuddalore district) in memory of Vallalar (a rationalist saint who lived in 19th century).
 
Besides, the party also promises introducing cable car facilities in major hill temples; concretising Girivala path in the Tiruvannamalai temple and making part-time and contract workers hired under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments into permanent staff and raising the financial aid to devotees to carry on with pilgrimage. The DMK promises to make immediate appointments for 205 candidates who completed the temple priest course that was conducted under ‘Priests from all castes’. It plans to extend the practice of doing ‘archana’ in Tamil to every temple and creating a high level statutory committee for better performance of temples’ administration.
 
A High-Stake Election
 
Slowly but surely, there is a perceptible change in Tamil Nadu politics. Although the BJP is not a major player in the Tamil Nadu scheme of things, the Saffron party is impacting the policy decisions and strategies of other parties.
 
Testing Political Fortunes
 
For the Tamil Nadu Assembly polls, scheduled on April 6, a total of 4,175 candidates are in the fray. This is the latest position after the deadline for withdrawal of nomination papers was over. With no wave either in favour or against the ruling dispensation, the AIADMK-BJP-PMK alliance is poised to romp home with a clear lead over DMK-Congress-VCK-Left combine.
 
On the last day of withdrawal of nominations, Karur (84) has the highest number of candidates. It is followed by Kangeyam (40) and Aravkurichi (40 candidates), where former IPS officer K Annamalai is contesting.
 
Due to shortage of time, candidates are using all available platforms to reach out to voters. They are improvising their manifestos with catchy promises. Candidates are using social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram to promote their parties and criticise opponents.
 
In its vision document for Tamil Nadu, the BJP has promised setting up an exclusive research university for ‘Agama Rituals’ (mainly followed in temples), freeing of temples from Government control, strict anti-conversion law, criminalising religious conversions and ban on cow slaughter. BJP is contesting 20 seats that comprise its Chief L Murugan, former IPS officer K. Annamalai, actress Kushboo Sundar, BJP Mahila unit Chief Vanathi Srinivasan and H. Raaja, apart from others.
 
Action Against Conversions
 
Articulating BJP’s vision for the State, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari said Anti-Conversion Law will be enacted in Tamil Nadu to criminalise religious conversions by either force or allurement. (The Jayalalithaa government had brought Tamil Nadu prohibition of forcible conversion of religion act 2002, banning animal and bird sacrifice in temples. But the DMK government that took over the regime from her, annulled these two acts).
 
BJP has promised to hand over administration of temples to a separate board comprising scholars and saints. Complete prohibition in Tamil Nadu and creating 50 lakh new employment opportunities are other promises of the party. The party also made a commitment to have in place an infrastructure to home deliver essential commodities to all smart card holder through the PDS. BJP also promised an annual financial aid of Rs.6,000 to each fishermen like farmers and retrieval of 12 lakh acres of Panchami land and handing it over to the Scheduled Caste members. It also promised to grant Indian citizenship to Sri Lankan Tamils living in various camps of the State. It also seeks to implement trifurcation of Greater Chennai Corporation and revival of Legislative Council, guaranteed to provide a minimum of Rs 5,000 per month for all village temple priests.
 
The BJP is also trying to exploit internal factions within AIADMK, the internecine feud between the AIADMK and Jayalalithaa’s confidante Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran. BJP wants a toe hold in Tamil Nadu.
 
Apart from the two Dravidian majors (DMK and AIADMK), Kamal Hassan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), TTV Dhinarakan’s Amma Makkal Munnetra kazhagam (AMMK), Seeman’s Naam Tamizhar Katchi (NTK) and a few fledgling outfits are also in the fray. Though it look appears to be a multi cornered contest, the real fight will be between DMK and AIADMK. While AIADMK wants to hit a hat-trick in the absence of any anti-establishment wave, DMK thinks it is their last chance to win the poll. All the parties came out with poll manifestos with sweet coated promises. DMK hopes its Tamil identity, Muslim and Christian vote bank and the sweet-coated poll promises will help them to win with a comfortable majority. In fact most of its promises were taken from Central schemes, AIADMK, MNM parties. DMK promised toilets for all houses and drinking water connections to every household. It was the Central projects that were implemented successfully in the country.
 
DMK’s manifesto promises a lot for Hindus. It promises to give village temple priests a hike in their salary and pensions; providing them with a Pongal bonus. The party, which once wanted to see the decline of temples and Hindu faith, wants to allocate Rs 1,000 crore for renovating temples 
DMK fears BJP has gained inroads in the State after the recent anti-Hindu rants by Dravidar Kazhagam. To make matters worse, Karuppar Kootam, VCK leader Thol Thiumavalavan, K Veeramani and others made derogatory remarks against Hindus gods.
 
Exposing DMK
 
Tamil Nadu voters have realised DMK’s Hindu phobic acts. There is a wave against DMK among Hindus who believe in God. BJP chief L Murugan’s ‘Vel Yatra’ made a tremendous influence on Hindu voters and have united them to stand against the DMK. RSS has been working round-the-clock to expose DMK’s Hindu-phobic rhetoric in social media and outreach programmes.
 
BJP has released “100 reasons to reject DMK” document. The party’s national secretary and TN in-charge CT Ravi said, “As an anti-democratic party, both DMK and Congress have similarities. The DMK stands for dynastic politics. After M Karunanidhi, Stalin is the owner of the party. Udhayanidhi will be next owner of the party. ‘M’ stands for money making. When the DMK and Congress were in power scams were happening daily. Tamil Nadu will not forget 2G. DMK is known for land grabbing. DMK has been manipulating the Tamils in the name of Dravidian principles and separating them from Aryans. It is playing with the sentiments of Tamils”. The booklet accused DMK of ‘anti-nation activities by saying
 
DMK chief Stalin in 2018 had said he would support for creation of a ‘Dravida Nadu’, if other Southern States were ready for it. It said Stalin had floated secessionist ideas.
 
Wooing Women
 
Kamal Hassan’s MNM, DMK and AIADMK are trying to woo the women with more promises as theythink they are the only committed vote bank. A couple of months ago, MNM promised to pay women amonthly sum for running the family. DMK and AIADMK have now assured to give a monthly sum towomen heads of families and waiver of cooperative jewel loans.
 
The ruling AIADMK has doled out a slew of promises. In the 163 point manifesto, the party said it will urge the Centre to scrap the contentious CAA, give Rs.7500 annual subsidy to farmers, houses free of cost to people, free solar cooking stoves, washing machines, 6 LPG cylinders, educational loan w aver, govt. jobs to all families, door delivery of ration commodities, increase in maternity leave , 1,500 per month to ration card holders, 50percent fair cut in town buses, monthly electricity cycle, continued to support for the release of 7 Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case convicts,and dual citizenship for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in the country.
 
An entire village near Trichy, in a video that went viral, can be seen stopping the DMK workers fromentering inside for campaigning. Muslims, allegedly instigated by the DMK, has opposed the AIADMKand BJP canvassing in their area. They have been doing this for a quite some time. Annamalai said thathe could not be stopped from canvassing in Pallapattu village.
 
Talking to media persons, Annamalai said: “I will enter the Pallippattu village. We do not need the Jamaat’s permission to enter the village for campaigning. It is in India only and our Constitution is in force there also. None has the right to block my entry to campaign in the village. I understand and respect Islam. I am willing to debate the BJP’s performances against Congress’ ten years in power from the perspective of welfare schemes for minorities. Jamaat should change its name to DMK and not just act as its extension. Muslim women will give more votes to the BJP alliance as they have benefitted from schemes like Triple Talaq.”
 
In Harbour Constituency, BJP has fielded Vinoj P Selvam. But another name sake has filed his papers asan Independent. They raised frivolous points. This led to tense moments. This DMK’s ploy to reject BJPcandidate from the fray as his chances of winning is very bright.
 
DMK promises to introduce cable car facilities in major hill temples; concretising Girivala path in the Tiruvannamalai temple and making part-time and contract workers hired under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments into permanent staff and raising the financial aid to devotees to carry on with pilgrimage
In the absence of charismatic leader in the AIADMK, Edapadi Palaniswamy’s skills in tackling intra partyrivalry and giving a good governance, dolling out a slew of freebies and implementation of severalwelfare projects have earned him good name. But at the same he has to face indirect hurdles fromTTV Dhinakaran-Sasikala camp in splitting their community from going to AIADMK. The absence ofDMDK, Puthiya Tamizhagam is a big loss for AIADMK in certain pockets.
 
In Tamil Nadu caste is a prime factor which plays a crucial role apart from party they belong.Tamil Maanila Congress leader G K Vasan said the AIADMK led alliance seems to be winning. In 10 years of governance, its welfare schemes and development projects have reached the people, from cities to villages. People believe the government as it has done what it promises.
 
Though AIADMK did not promise dry laws, TMC is for a total prohibition which finds place in itsmanifesto.DMK’s allies have advocated prohibition, while DMK is mum on this core and tricky issue. Most of the breweries and liquors units are being owned by DMK leaders.Prof Ramu Manivannan, in a television debate. Said: “After the demise of Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, anew transition is happening and the new leaders are trying their political fortunes. Congress has failed to come back after its debacle in 1967. It is a not a major force. But the BJP in the last five or six years have made inroads in the state. Its consistence and study efforts have paid off. It is expected to play any alternative to Dravidian forces in the coming years”.
 

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Tamil film actor Senthil speaking to mediapersons after joining BJP
 
Political and economic commentator Sriram Seshadri said: “There is a vacuum in leadership of both DMKand AIADMK. In 2019 Lok Sabha, Stalin has proved that DMK has filled the vacuum by getting a clearmandate. But CM Edapadi has successfully contained intra party rivalry. People were in doubt whetherhe would continue in his position in the wake of mounting opposition both within and outside. But heproved his mettle and won the by-polls. He took clear control over the party and administration now.
 
He has had a very short run way. He has proved far more polished politician and far more forthright inpushing himself as a leader to fill gap of Jayalalithaa. As an administration he is the most popular CMcompared to Jayalalithaa or Karunanidhi. This election is pretty unique as both Stalin and Palaniswamythink it is a fight between DMK and AIADMK and they do not want any nationalist force like Congress orBJP to have say in government formation.”
 
“DMK and its controlled paid media, research units have been coming out with poll surveys claiming that DMK will win over 150 seats. Many know it is a delusion. By this tactics, DMK is trying to influence the fence sitters, and neutral voters. VCK, Dravidar Kazhagam, Congress are an additional burden for the DMK as people have a strong dislike for them. Ultimately the ruling AIADMK combine is poised to get a comfortable majority and in its way for forming next government” sums up journalist Senthil.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Union Defence Minister Rajnat Singh, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman among other union Ministers besides local BJP leaders are seeking votes for AIADMK-led alliance and BJP candidates in the coming days. This will make a tremendous change and tilt the wind in favour the AIADMK-led combine.