Jayalalitha can’t be called a Hindutva leader, say political analysts

They also opined that such remarks by Annamalai will not help BJP to woo the AIADMK cadre.
Former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalitha.
Former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalitha. PTI

CHENNAI: BJP state president K Annamalai’s recent assertions that former chief minister J Jayalalithaa was an ardent Hindutva leader has sparked a fresh bout of duel between AIADMK and BJP leaders, although AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami is yet to comment on the issue.

While AIADMK’s second-rung leaders came down strongly on Annamalai, political analysts feel that Jayalalithaa cannot be dubbed as a Hindutva leader since she never subscribed to hardcore Hindutva ideologies despite remaining a staunch Hindu. They also opined that such remarks by Annamalai will not help BJP to woo AIADMK cadre.

Annamalai’s recent remarks had given room for speculations that the BJP may be trying to rope in a sizeable number of AIADMK cadre ahead of the 2026 Assembly elections.

When asked about the motive behind Annamalai’s remarks, AIADMK’s deputy general secretary KP Munusamy questioned what Annamalai spoke about her few months ago, referring to the BJP leader’s interview in which he pointed out that Jayalalithaa was convicted for corruption. “Now, he praises Amma as a Hindutva leader. Which description of Annamalai about Amma is true? How can you rely on a person who contradicts his own statements? We don’t give importance to Annamalai.”

Countering Annamalai, former AIADMK minister D Jayakumar on Wednesday, in a tweet, said Jayalalithaa had clarified that AIADMK was neutral on the Ram Janma Bhoomi issue and attached a speech of Jayalalithaa in this regard. In that speech, Jayalalithaa asked Hindu and Muslim leaders to arrive at an amicable solution and appealed to not make it an electoral issue.

Political analyst Tharasu Shyam is of the view that Jayalalithaa cannot be called a Hindutva leader for many reasons. “When the AIADMK led by Jayalalithaa aligned with BJP in 1998, she asked BJP to put contentious issues like Ayodhya into the backburner for 20 years, indicating that it was only an electoral alliance and not an alliance based on ideologies. At one point, Jayalalithaa declared that AIADMK will never have any alliance with BJP and she stuck to that till the end. Even after Modi called on her residence, she did not change that stand.”

Arguing that Hindutva meant Hindu nationalism, he said Jayalalithaa never reflected the idea of Hindu nationalism. He said, after Lok Sabha election results, there may be voices against Annamalai within his party, saying that they could have won seats if the alliance with AIADMK was intact. “Just to safeguard himself, he is praising Jayalalithaa. Further, AIADMK cadres will be there where the Two Leaves symbol is there. So, Annamalai’s efforts will not succeed,” he added.

Raama Sreenivasan, state general secretary of BJP, said, “We don’t praise AIADMK to woo their cadre. Jayalalithaa supported Ram temple in Ayodhya, the abrogation of Article 370 and the uniform civil code. All these fully established Jayalalithaa as a Hindutva leader. Hindutva ideology is not a monopoly of BJP. All through her life, Jayalalithaa upheld her identity as a Hindu. She was indeed a Dravidian leader who never hesitated to show her Hindu identity. Before Jayalalithaa, no Dravidian leader proclaimed his or her Hindu identity.”

Senior journalist T Sigamani said, “There are two types of Hindus - fanatic Hindus and religious Hindus. The fanatic Hindus would treat the people of other faiths as secondary citizens. But Jayalalithaa, throughout her lifetime never subscribed to that kind of ideology. … The BJP leaders might aim at wooing the soft-Hindutva-minded people in the AIADMK. But it will not succeed in the present situation.”

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