CHENNAI: If one has to go by the history of Tamil Nadu, it can be unblinkingly said that Dravidian politics has never particularly aligned itself with any religion. But times change; and they also change the way political parties, once steadfast in their ideology and principles, reorient their strategy.
The relentless pursuit of the BJP to gain entry with its Hindutva-styled politics into the State has made the age-old Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) find a happy medium where it promises to ensure social justice and also cater to the people of Hindu religion.
By doing this, the DMK has joined the bandwagon of AAP, TMC and other regional parties. Picking up the gauntlet by taking on the BJP’s Hindutva politics head-on, the DMK has announced a slew of measures favouring the Hindu populace in its manifesto.
The DMK's promises like providing Rs 25,000 allowance for upto one lakh people, who are going on pilgrimage to Rameshwaram, Kasi, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Thirupathi and Puri Jagannath, and allocating Rs 1,000 crore for temples in the State to conduct their traditional festivals and renovation works are all top-of-the-line approaches to counter its anti-Hindu image.
The party's focus on temple infrastructure like providing cable car facilities in important temples located atop hills such Tiruttani, Sholingur, Thiruneermalai, Thiruchimalai Kottai, and Thiruchengudu and concretising the roads leading upto the temple town of Tiruvannamalai, as well as its promise in the realm of welfare measures like increasing the monthly allowance and pension for priests who have registered themselves with the Priests' Welfare Board and making the jobs of temple staff permanent with all government benefits confirms the fact that these are all arrows in the DMK’s quiver to counter the BJP’s constant heaping of the ‘anti-Hindu’ tag on the Dravidian party.
When the Karuppar Kootam YouTube channel allegedly portrayed the Tamil hymn Kandha Sashti Kavasam in a derogatory manner, L Murugan was quick to link the incident with the DMK. However, the party distanced itself from the channel and condemned the video a day earlier to Murugan’s statement.
Picking up the threads from it, the BJP State unit kicked off a storm with its Vel Yatra; and at a point, DMK leader Stalin also carried a Vel (spear), in a not-so-veiled response to the saffron party.
Stalin has time and again referred to Anna’s Dictum of Universality "Ondre Kulam, Oruvane Devan: One Race, One God", and reiterated that the party stood by it. But mere words were not enough to brush off the anti-Hindu image that BJP had painted of DMK.
Political analyst Raveendhran Duraisamy says that this is a move by the DMK to adapt to the trend of present-world politics. "With parties that use religion as a weapon, it has to be countered with the same weapon and by doing it, DMK has neutralized the discourse," he added.
While in some sections these announcements of policies for the Hindus are seen as a prudent move, questions on DMK’s compromise on rationality and leaning towards populism in religion have been raised as well.
An Ex-DMK MLA, who was close to M Karunanidhi, questioned that it is only the Hindus who will largely get benefited from all the schemes announced by DMK and there was no need for an announcement on the lines of religion. “It appears as if the party has bulged to the narrative of BJP,” said the former MLA.
He said that at least these announcements could have been made in a nuanced way. “There are already government schemes for people to visit Jerusalem and Mecca and this must have been announced, in addition to that, and not separately. Similarly, the announcement for pilgrimage could have been confined only to the Arupadai Veedu Murugan temples as Murugan is considered as a Tamil God,” the MLA added, pointing out that it would have been apt to tackle the Hindutva narrative.
On the social justice front, the party has also promised to give job postings to 205 archakars (priests) from the non-brahmin communities, who have completed their Saiva Archakar Payirchi.
In addition to all this, DMK has also promised 75 per cent reservations in the job quota for local people of Tamil Nadu and reservations in private sector. However, Raveendhran feels that the party has taken a step in the right direction to counter the Hindutva claims, but he also says one cannot tell how the discourse may take shape post-elections or who may become the ‘force’.
(Inputs by S Kumaresan)