CHENNAI: While the several parts of the country celebrated the foundation-laying ceremony for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya with religious fervour on Wednesday, the response in Tamil Nadu was muted. Barring some functions organised by the BJP and Hindu outfits, no significant public events in support of the Bhoomi Puja were seen.
No major political party, including DMK, PMK, MDMK, VCK, and NTK, has expressed support for the event. Although Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami extended formal greetings to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the successful conduct of the event, no statement was issued on behalf of the AIADMK.
Political parties tread lightly
While Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Wednesday evening hailed the foundation laying for the Ram temple, his statement was issued only in the personal capacity. Interestingly, while the State unit of the Congress issued no statement on the matter, its official Twitter handle shared the Tamil post of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi which said, "Lord Ram is a manifestation of the best human qualities. Ram’s face is love, it can never appear in disgust."
However, while none may have officially supported the event, none barring the Left parties criticised the BJP over it either. Even VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan’s only criticism was regarding why President Ramnath Kovind, a Dalit, was not attending the event.
Not a sentimental issue in TN
The muted response further highlights how the Ram temple issue had failed to gain any political traction in the State over the decades despite 85 percent of TN’s population being Hindu.
In his statement, Panneerselvam mentioned that on November 23, 1992 late CM and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa had backed the idea of the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya during the National Integration Council meeting. However, observers pointed out that she sought that it be done without disturbing the mosque. Within a month of this event, the Babri Masjid was demolished and Jayalalithaa strongly condemned the act. Subsequently, the AIADMK too called for a state-wide bandh condemning the demolition.
Experts pointed to several reasons for the temple issue remaining irrelevant in the State. According to political observers, Lord Rama is worshipped only by a minuscule population of Hindus in the State, with a majority of them being followers of Lord Shiva, Amman, Murugan and Perumal.
"Unlike Perumal and Azhagar, Lord Rama is not popular among Hindus (in TN) and there are only a handful of temples for the deity," noted political commentator V M M Suba Guna Rajan. He said that the Ram temple issue was a political programme of BJP to capture power.
The Tamil saints such as Vallalar Ramalinga Swamigal and spiritual leaders like Kundrakudi Ponnambala Adigalar and Kirupananda Variyar have a huge influence on Hindus here. "Except Brahmins and few other communities, a larger section of Hindus don't associate themselves with the Hindus in North India," he said.
He said that Dravidian ideology is deep-rooted in the State and even those who offered worship daily would not tolerate the desecration of Periyar Statue. “Non-Brahmin Hindu will suspect the intentions of people who speak ill of Dravidian leaders,” he said. "Above all, Tamil Nadu is the only south Indian state, after Kerala, in which Muslims and Christians have actively participated in mainstream politics for decades.”