AIADMK and BJP fight over vetrivel yatra days before Amit Shah’s visit to Chennai
The alliance between the ruling AIADMK and the BJP in Tamil Nadu has come into friction over the Vetrivel Yatra of the saffron party and the former insists that it will not allow any processions aimed at disturbing peace and harmony in the state.
“Tamil Nadu will not allow any procession or yatra that seeks to divide people in the name of caste or religion,” stated a column published Monday in AIADMK spokesman Namadhu Amma.
The clash between the allies comes ahead of Union Interior Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Chennai on November 21 to work out a strategy with the BJP state unit for the 2021 assembly elections. On Sunday, BJP state president L Murugan announced that Shah will attend government programs and his inaugural visit since taking over as Union minister was expected to boost morale in the cadre.
The BJP recently appointed its national secretary general CT Ravi as state manager. The party has been trying to make inroads into Tamil Nadu, where it is fighting the perception of being an outsider. The party that swept the 2014 and 2019 general elections has not been able to recreate its electoral dominance in Tamil Nadu. The DMK won 37 of the 38 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 defeating the AIADMK-BJP combine. But in the assembly votes held simultaneously, AIADMK won 9 of the 22 seats to retain power. The DMK won 13.
While AIADMK has been a loyal partner in supporting BJP’s position at the Center on issues such as the CAA, triple talaq, and farm laws, it has recently asserted itself in the state’s interests on NEET and NEP issues. An AIADMK leader who did not want to be named said any truck with the BJP will affect its performance. Political observers also say that the BJP wants to be seen as a contender against the DMK.
The month-long Vetrivel yatra was designed to consolidate the Hindu vote bank by invoking Lord Muruga, a popular deity among the Tamils. The BJP wants to expose what it considers “anti-Hindu and anti-Tamil propaganda”. The yatra grew out of a controversy when BJP took on a YouTube channel, Karuppar Kootam, which ridiculed Kandha Sashti Kavasam, a devotional hymn dedicated to Lord Muruga.
“It seems that Lord Muruga is being kidnapped by the Aryan speech,” said Ramu Manivannan, director of the department of politics and public administration at the University of Madras. “BJP is bringing in a Hindu narrative that may create some dent, but that number will be negligible. The radicalization of the Hindus in the north is different. While the Ram mandir issue is a compelling situation in the north, the people of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have been marching for Lord Muruga for a long time, so they don’t need the BJP to campaign for them now. ”
Although the BJP leaders say they are hurt by the opinion piece in the AIADMK spokesperson and feel it was unnecessary, both sides maintain that there is no tension in their ties even as their representatives argue about the matter in the Madras high court.
“Both Karuppar Kootam and those holding saffron flags must understand that unity and harmony prevail in Tamil Nadu,” the AIADMK op-ed said. This was in response to comments from the newly appointed BJP National President Mahila Morcha, Vanathi Srinivasan about the yatra. Srinivasan clarified that AIADMK misinterpreted his comments. “We are partners in the alliance, but that does not mean that we will not raise people’s problems,” Srinivasan said. “We want to expose the hypocrisy of the political parties in the state that are not opposed to those who ridicule the Hindu dharma.”
The BJP has accused the DMK’s opposition leader, MK Stalin, of backing the arrested members of the YouTube group. DMK denied any role in it, but has remained on the sidelines to comment on the yatra.
“The BJP is thinking that they will face the Tamil parties for being against religion. But the opposition parties will present it as a Dravidian anti-Aryan speech, ”Manivannan said. “Tamil Nadu sees them as a community of the social environment. Hindu DMK votes are unlikely to be eaten. ”