• BJP’s attempt at appropriating Thiruvalluvar in vain?

    Neelambaran A

    November 5, 2019

    The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been working strenuously to gain foothold in Tamil Nadu. But most of its efforts have not only gone in vain, but have severely backfired, thanks mainly to the reformist nature of the state and a vibrant social media activism. Every time the prime minister pays a visit to the state, the #GoBackModi campaign gets a new lease of life.

    The latest attempt by the BJP aimed at appropriating the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar through a tweet from the state BJP’s Twitter handle and wrong interpretation of one of the couplets written by him. This tweet followed a recent desecration of a statue of Thiruvalluvar in Thanjavore district by unidentified persons.

    Uproar Over Tweets

    The official handle of BJP Tamil Nadu state committee posted a photo of the poet Thiruvalluvar clad in saffron robe, with Rudraksha around his arms and neck and holy ash on his forehead. The picture was posted along with a kural (couplet) by him and its interpretation. Thiruvalluvar is the author of Thirukkural—a classic Tamil language text consisting of 1,330 couplets. The poet joins the long list of people being portrayed as ambassadors of the Hindu religion and the so-called Hindu culture.

    The tweet criticised the Dravidar Kazhagam, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the communist parties for their atheistic beliefs and recommended that these parties correct themselves based on that particular couplet. However, BJP’s interpretation differs from the several of the interpretations written over several decades. Tamil scholars and academicians squarely rejected the BJP version, calling it ‘absurd’.

    The importance given to Tamil language and the state by BJP and its leaders is being seen as an appeasement tactic by political observers. The repeated reference to Thirukkural and other Tamil sangam writings by the PM as well as the recent selection of venue for the unofficial summit with the Chinese president are evident of this effort. Tamil Nadu is one of the very few states which have not yielded to the gimmicks of the prime minister and his party. The rout faced by the BJP and AIADMK stands a testimony to the failure of the BJP propaganda machinery, particularly in the state.

    DMK, Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association have strongly condemned this attempt at appropriation by the BJP.

    Not very long ago, the state had witnessed a sudden arrival of Tarun Vijay, the then member of Rajya Sabha—portrayed as someone passionate about Tamil and Thirukkural. His frequent visits to Tamil Nadu, efforts to install a statue of Thiruvalluvar in Haridwar and distribution of one lakh Thirukkural books had sought political observers’ attention. The former Member of Parliament from Uttarakhand had even held placards with a couplet from Thirukkural against the disruptions in Rajya Sabha. However, this bubble was burst when he referred to South Indians as black in a television debate in 2017.

    Election Outcomes

    The BJP has been facing humiliation in the Lok Sabha as well as the Assembly elections when it comes to Tamil Nadu. The BJP tasted its first victory in the 1998 general elections when it won three seats from the state while aligning with the AIADMK. It managed to win one more seat in 1999 in alliance with the DMK. In 2004, 2009 and 2019 it drew a blank from the state while it managed to win a lone seat in 2014.


    First published in Newsclick.

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