Friday, June 7, 2024

Is there a Dravidian Wall against BJP/Hindutva? A Rebuttal

Journalist and writer Vaasanthi's column in the Indian Express, "Why BJP's Hindutva appeal can't cross the Dravidian wall" , is a partisan paean to DMK and oversells the state of communal harmony in Tamil Nadu while ignoring, quite conveniently, the real tectonic shift in Uttar Pradesh, the incubator of militant Hindutva and religious communalism.

For starters, let us not forget the rise of BJP in Tamil Nadu was made possible by the crass political opportunism of DMK that eagerly replaced ADMK in the BJP alliance when Jayalalitha shocked the nation by pulling down the Vajpayee government. DMK patriarch M.Karunanidhi himself took to propagandizing about "gentle" Vajpayee. Mu.Ka called Vajpayee, a delicious fruit in a bad tree and Vajpayee effortlessly retorted that no bad tree yields a good fruit.
First of all when Vaasanthi says a "Dravidian wall" held against Hindutva is she suggesting that Tamil Nadu's borders define Dravidian land? BJP is thriving in Karnataka and is making inroads in Kerala, helped by, hold your breath, the Church establishment that found BJP to be a partner in Islamophobia. DMK's Dravida-Naadu (Dravidian Country) days used to speak of a pan South India identity, with no historical basis though.
Tamil Nadu is a better 'secular' state than most others only if we interpret 'secularism' within the narrow inter-religious context. If we expanded the understanding of secularism to be lack of friction or overt strife amongst the many sections of the society then Tamil Nadu falls far short of this propagandized image thanks to the persistent violence against Dalits that goes largely unpunished.
Tamil Nadu staved, for a while, the BJP threat by effectively campaigning that BJP is a Brahmin party. In a state where nothing other than EVR's anti-brahmanism, not his atheism or rationalism, took firm roots this campaign of portraying BJP as Brahmin party played well and the Tamil Brahmins eagerly played into it too. This ploy worked well until recent times. Modi's BJP worked assiduously in all states, including UP, to shed the Brahmin-Bania image and Tamil Nadu saw a non-Brahmin lead the state party. Vaasanthi herself has borne the brunt of the state's virulent culture of anti-Brahminism in the Karunanidhi days.
Take a look around Tamil Nadu today and see how politics has indeed become Hinduized. Annamalai, the butt of jokes amongst DMK circles, has changed the politics of the state. Put simply a Kamal Hassan cannot dream of making another movie like "Kaathala Kaathala", many leading artistes were Brahmins in that movie, rife with mockery of Hindu Gods.
DMK responds to Annamalai's politics. This is the blunt fact. Annamalai has failed to deliver MP seats for his party but DMK is in no position to ignore his Hindu politics. Time and again, like arresting a nun to placate Annamalai's shrill trumped up charges against a school, DMK bends to accommodate a rising Hindu sentiment.
This column emphasizes on cultural tapestry of Tamil Nadu to portray a rich and accepting culture. Tamil Nadu's problem has never been religion it was always caste. We should ask ourselves why is a state that lacks inter-religious strife driven by caste conflicts.
Moreover Vaasanthi's article only glances by the alliance arithmetic that helped DMK. DMK did not pull of the stunning victory of Jaya's "Lady or Modi" in 2014 when she romped home with 40 seats, with no alliance. Alliance arithmetic rather than ideology defeated BJP. The alliance was an opportunistic one too. Rahul and Congress grimaced and grunted when Stalin eagerly embraced the convicted assassins of Rajiv Gandhi. Stalin and Rahul then embraced each other for pragmatic reasons. Stalin proposing Rahul's name as PM is no Kamaraj like kingmaker moment. It was a polite platitude with no meaning.
TN is no fortress against Hindutva. All this praise about numerous temple festivals unaccompanied by lack of religious strife ignores the fact that Muslim constitute a mere 5% unlike UP and it further ignores the long and tangled history of Islam in North is very different from South.
While overselling an idyllic picture of Tamil Nadu Vaasanthi has completely ignored the real earthquake in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP lost, lo and behold, in Ayodhya. Hindutva groups are lamenting that UP, to borrow Mark Antony's words about Brutus, delivered the "most unkindest cut of all". That Hindutva met its comeuppance in the very heartland that incubated it is the real story of the election.