By reviving Periyar, BJP has made latest misstep in Tamil Nadu: Party remains non-starter in southern state

It takes more than just foolishness to do what a BJP leader has done in 'Dravidian' Tamil Nadu. Although the bulk of the nation is under its thumb, Tamil Nadu has eluded its tentacles so far and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. One does not need a doctorate in astrology to predict it.

With no friends in sight, the BJP is worse off here than Rahul Gandhi's Congress. And that's saying a lot. It seems that for a long time to come, the BJP leadership will be able to see the insides of the Tamil Nadu Assembly only on television. So, the last thing the party wants is enemies. And that precisely is what a loud-mouthed local leader of the party has earned in abundance in 280 characters.

Here is how the strange tweet has affected BJP. First, deleting a social media post is like extinguishing a match stick after setting off the explosive. Erasing a post does not stop its spread. The Periyar post is very much in the public realm to haunt the BJP for quite some time.

Every party in Tamil Nadu, barring the BJP, lays claim to Periyar's legacy, for whatever it is worth. BJP had not one but several opportunities to have capitalised on the total irrelevance of Periyar and his so-called rationalist, often anti-nationalist, views and actions. But this should have happened on an ideological/intellectual plane. Instead, the BJP has shot itself in the foot and the bullet has set off a dormant stick of dyanamite.

Periyar was a self-styled iconoclast. The thrust of his campaign manifested in breaking idols of Hindu gods, garlanding them with chappals and pulling the tufts or cutting the sacred thread of chaste brahmins. All very rational and profound ideas of the much revered Thandhai (father figure); so revered that this prolific idol-breaker ironically now has the most number of idols, more even than those of the gods that he so hated. The annual rituals of garlanding his statues (not with slippers, may I point out) are also celebrated with much fervour and fanfare.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

For rest of the year, the crows and pigeons have it for you-know-what. If all his statues were to be brought down, it would be a huge project and the Tamil Nadu BJP (ignore the oxymoron) has to import sundry senas from other states, like Tripura for instance, and may have to apply for a World Bank loan. And since crows are not a vote bank, the BJP need not worry.

Tamil Nadu is a land of temples. Here it is bhakti Hinduism, unlike the militant Hindutva of the north that bore the brunt of Mughal and pre-Mughal rules, whence mosques replaced many holy Hindu shrines. If there is any state that is the ripest for BJP's picking it is Tamil Nadu. Periyar’s atheism and Dravidian rationalism were mere doormats to temples, trod over by millions of Hindu devotees daily. No amount destroying Periyar’s statues can mock this perennial ignominy to the bearded Dravidian icon. Instead of reaping the harvest as a party of piety, BJP here is a non-starter. And worse, its prominent loudspeaker has resurrected the Periyars (statues, I mean) with statuesque guards (BJP's central leadership) on watch.

The BJP high command is much to blame for blowing opportunity upon opportunity to make a mark in Tamil Nadu. Having come to power on an anti-corrruption plank, it ignored the most corrupt state, namely Tamil Nadu! For some strange reason, Narendra Modi chose not to cross J Jayalalithaa's path. Even her open challenge in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, 'This Lady or that Modi', failed to provoke him. An aggressive counter campaign would have certainly given BJP a foothold, to begin with. This failure helped Jayalalithaa net 38 MPs.

Another chance sailed through the window when she was jailed in September 2014. Even Tamil Nadu BJP leaders (oxymoron again) had no clue what their northern netas had up their kurta sleeves. And the door of narrow opportunity shut almost instantly. In the Srirangam 'buy'-poll in February 2015, the BJP lost its deposit. Then came the 2015 December floods, a wholly man, rather, woman-made disaster. Even such criminal negligence went unquestioned.

In the 2016 state elections, with BJP not even in the picture, Jayalalithaa had her way. Stashes of cash (just one seizure was worth Rs 580 crore) were on parade. Elections to two constituencies were stopped. Still, not a whimper from Delhi. But the worst was during her hospitalisation and death. A mystery that was waiting to be unravelled was somehow prolonged and perpetrated by BJP and the Central government’s misty eyes. The Centre’s silence during those critical hours, despite being equipped with all the wherewithal, is the direct cause for all the confusion in Tamil Nadu today.

Periyar has long been buried by his own followers. Breaking his statues is a waste of time. Instead, it will serve BJP and the state better if its central leadership, for once, breaks its head on how to tune into the heart and mind of Tamil Nadu. Or remain forever a party of North India that could never understand the Tamil psyche.


Updated Date: Mar 08, 2018 10:47 AM

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