CHENNAI: Labouring hard to project itself as an alternative to both the dominant Dravidian parties, the ‘party with a difference’ is now confronted with its latest gamble on Jallikattu backfiring. Coming on the back of its inability to make any tangible progress in the contentious fishermen issue, the adventurism on Jallikattu has not helped its cause.
The hype that the BJP leaders had created for the past couple of months over Jallikattu had raised the hopes of the enthusiasts of this traditional sport to great heights. Saffron leaders have gone to the extent of declaring this Pongal as ‘Modi Pongal’.
With the Supreme Court staying the Centre’s notification and the Modi government’s reluctance to promulgate an Ordinance but passing the buck to the Tamil Nadu government has exposed it to severe criticisms from various quarters, including former and potential allies.
The immediate impact of this is on the BJP’s efforts to complete the alliance talks by January 20. The party’s initiative to rope in ‘social, non-political outfits’ into the NDA fold ahead of Assembly elections is likely to be hit by the Jallikattu fiasco. Till now, the party has not been able to bring on board any major ally into the NDA, and the latest failure on the Jallikattu front seems to have dented its capacity significantly, said political observers.
On the fishermen issue, too, the BJP government at the Centre has earned the wrath of the parties and people here. After the Modi government assumed office, fishermen arrested by Lankan Navy were released in groups. However, their boats, numbering about 75, remain in Lankan custody, left to the mercy of nature. Despite many reminders from Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa as well as from the fishermen associations, there has not been any progress in this regard.
As on date, 114 fishermen from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry are in Lankan custody, and would celebrate their Pongal in prisons in the island nation. Though some reports said that these fishermen are likely to be released soon, there is no confirmation on whether they would be in their native places for Pongal. However, the fishermen want to put an end to the frequent arrest, occasional releases and continued incarceration.
Recently, representatives of fishermen associations from many coastal districts met at Nagapattinam and vented their anger against the Centre for the lack of progress on the issue.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had promised to form a separate Ministry for redressing the grievances of fishermen. But after coming to power, there has been no concrete move on that. This also had angered the fishermen community. Despite the claim from various top party leaders that the Centre had been making efforts to find an amicable solution, everything has been limited to ‘talks’ with no fruitful result thus far.
The State BJP had announced that Central Ministers would tour all districts of Tamil Nadu from May as part of their ‘reach out programme’ to communicate about the Centre’s achievements. But for a couple of occasions, the programme did not take off in full swing. All these would make difficult the BJP’s task of stitching together a viable coalition ahead of the Assembly polls.