CHENNAI: Even as the Assembly elections draw closer, the ideological clash between the DMK and BJP seems to be getting bitter. While the BJP has been banking on its tried-and-tested formula of Hindu vote consolidation – through campaigns such as the vel pooja – the DMK, for its part, has taken up the cause of OBC reservation in medical entrance and civil service exams. The attempts to paint the DMK as being anti-Hindu and the BJP as opposed to caste-based reservations, are likely to put a fresh spin to the electoral battle in the State.
The issue came out in the open recently, when a YouTube video uploaded by a group called Karuppar Koottam caused uproar. The video, published around seven months back, suddenly caught the attention of a few netizens last month, for allegedly making derogatory comments about the deity Murugan and the associated hymn Kandar Sashti Kavasam. Following the outrage and campaigns spearheaded by the BJP, the ‘atheists’ behind the videos were arrested for hurting sentiments.
The DMK publicly condemned the video and disowned its makers. Yet, the BJP wanted leaders of both the Dravidian majors to denounce the clip for hurting the sentiment of Hindus. The culmination of the campaign, and a series of exchanges that followed, was the vel pooja. However, it failed to gain traction as the DMK was handed a fresh trump card – the OBC reservation. The denial of OBC reservation in UG and PG medical and dental courses heated up quickly in the State.
Activists have attacked the move, claiming it as injustice done to the other backward classes by the BJP-ruled Centre. On the back of it came yet another issue – the cut-off mark for candidates applying under the Economically Weaker Sections for the civil services exams, was lower than it was for backward classes. The DMK has demanded a detailed inquiry into the issue. BJP State general secretary Karu Nagarajan accuses the DMK for painting his party in bad light amid people of the OBC sections.
“It’s our government which gave constitutional status to the National Commission of Backward Classes (NCBC) in 2018. In 1990, after the Mandal Commission’s recommendations, the OBC Bill was passed in the Parliament with the support of 98 MPs belonging to the BJP.” Noting that the DMK was part of the previous Congress governments at the Centre, which did not provide OBC reservation in AIQ, he accused DMK of playing a role against the public interest in the State.
“It is hoodwinking people with a false narrative against us,” claims Nagarajan. Professor Arunan Kathiresan of the CPM, however, points out that the BJP’s support to the OBC Bill in 1990 didn’t last for more than a few months. “Soon after the Bill was passed in both houses of Parliament, the BJP commenced Ratha Yatra to consolidate the Hindu vote bank, which eventually culminated in the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992,” he says.
BJP’s tryst with Bill
Professor Arunan Kathiresan points out that the BJP’s support to the OBC Bill in 1990 didn’t last for more than a few months “Soon after the Bill was passed, the BJP commenced Ratha Yatra to consolidate the Hindu vote bank.” He added that the reservation for OBCs will destroy the political base of BJP because it uplifts OBCs who account more than 60 percent of the population amoung Hindus. "Whenever the issue of OBC comes to fore, the BJP gets exposed as its only intended to serve the upper caste population amoung Hindus" claimed Kathiresan.