Elections in Tamil Nadu have always been unique. Its contribution to national hustings is unparalleled. The famous expression “Thirumangalam formula”, a common term to describe money factor. As on April 14, Rs.552.23 crores had been seized in TN, in cash and jewellery, meant for distribution to voters. We rank first and have a healthy share of 40% out of All India seizure of Rs.1,450 crores. The Thiru-mangalam formula was even alluded to in a cable sent by the U.S. embassy, Chennai to the US State Department, Washington, in 2009.This was part of the expose of Julian Assange of Wikileaks’ fame. And, of course, RK Nagar by election.
But what takes the cake, in TN elections is the pervasive Hindu bashing that takes place during the time of elections in TN. It has become an art form as there is conviction that Hindus do not vote en bloc, whereas Christians and Muslims do. Truth or otherwise of this has never been empirically established, though psephological findings over the years do point in this direction. Therefore, the inclination to indulge in such avoidable cacophony from the electoral platforms has escalated manifold.
But this time, there is a definite pivoting, at least in the past week or so. Led by the leader of the opposition Mr. Stalin, DMK has repeated now and again, for those who may care to listen.”As far as the DMK is concerned, if I have to state it clearly, it is Anna’s principle of one race, one God. Even Kalaignar, in the film Parasakthi, would have clearly said in a dialogue, ‘DMK’s goal is not that temples should not be there; it is that temples should not become a haven for evil.’ That’s the basis on which the DMK exists today.” Stalin said. Citing a personal example, the DMK chief said, “90% of the DMK is Hindus only. To be even more explicit, my partner also goes to temples without fail in the morning and in the evening. I have never called her and said, ‘Why are you going? Don’t go. It is wrong’ So, it is a false propaganda for election, nothing else.”
Honestly, he had to perforce come up with such a loud statement of explanation, including roping in his religious minded wife Ms. Durga, thanks in the main to his friendly and possibly philosopher guide in Mr. K. Veeramani the leader of the Dravida Kazhagam, who ‘proudly abused’ Bhagwan Sri Krishna a few days back. The video of Veeramani’s talk that was uploaded on March 22 on a Youtube channel called ‘Kulukkai’ sparked a controversy. By comparing Krishna Bhagavan with Pollachi accused sexual predators, Veeramani, it is said, has ‘hurt millions of Hindus across the globe’, Thousands of Hindus have voiced their condemnation on social media while sharing the video in which Veeramani had abused Lord Krishna. Worried with the traction this viral video was having, the leader of the opposition party had to step in to quell the growing dissent. A very rare intervention for a self-confessed atheist and rationlist loyalist to the party ideology.
And it is not confined to DMK alone. It is quite amusing to see some of their candidates openly sporting Vibhuti/Kumkum on their foreheads - not merely sporting them but even drawing the attention of the voters to it. Of course, ever since the late, lamented Puratchi Thalaivar M.G. Ramachanran, visited the Mookambika Temple, Kollur in Karnataka in 1980, AIADMK party has ceased to be tarred with the Hindu bashing brush. And Madam Jayalalithaa never hid her religiosity by her frequent temple hopping and even openly bathing in the Mahamakam at Kumbakonam.
But DMK has steadfast stuck to its past roots but now been forced to resurrect its old refrain “Onre Kulam Oruvane Thevan”. So much so, Mr.Stalin even respected the Purana Kumbam offered to him by Ranganthan Temple priests in Srirangam, even while declining to enter the temple for worship. Perfectly fine and understandable.
But to defend the likes of Mr.Veeramani or earlier Mr. Vairamuthu for his not so complimentary remarks on Srivilliputhur Andal, appears to have landed the DMK and its ideological mates, in at least a temporary soup, of its own making, on the eve of April18 elections. The impact from the social platform’s viral mobility is too obvious to see or miss. The allies on his side, be it the Marxists - in particular, in temple city of Madurai or Viduthalai Chiruthaigal in Chidamabaram, appear also to have fallen in line quite quickly, not to be seen on Hindu bashing bandwagon. There is an urgency and eagerness displayed in showing themselves to be not so inimical to the pantheon of Hindu Gods and its ardent worshippers.
Yes, it is a welcome pivot. First of all, religion should always be off limits on the electoral plane. In fact, pandering to religious beliefs or appealing to votes in the name of religion would fall foul of Representation of People’s Act and the example of Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray who was suspended from standing for elections for 6 years by the Supreme Court, is a well known precedent, If that be so, even those who indulge in Hindu bashing, surreptitiously, to purportedly win over the ‘other side’ is equally reprehensible. What do they think they are hinting at? As if the Muslims and Christians fall for the bait, for the asking, when there is name calling of the Hindus. It is demeaning to every member of the respective community to be seen as a voter, wearing religion on one’s sleeve and offering it to the first suitor who abuses the other.
The politicians need to understand - We the people are different. Each voter has a mind of his own and not as if to be herded as sheep by a religious umbilical cord. It is a gross insult to our intelligence. Equally, it is amusing to see the hypocrisy at work. As if it was the ‘majoritarian’ pushback and backlash that was ‘unnecessarily compelling them to pivot’. No one is asking them to pivot. They can continue their merry ways, except at the peril of our support and franchise. So, gentlemen and ladies, you pivot for a reason of selfish interest. But, it is good, if the pivoting is forever. Don’t pull wool over our eyes.
Listen to Nani Palkhivala, the jurist, “C.Rajagopalchari (incidentally a bosom friend of Periyar and can anyone forget the sobbing of Periyar when Rajaji was cremated) observed: If there is any honesty in India today, and hospitality, any chastity, and philanthropy, and any tenderness to the dumb creatures, any aversion to evil, any love to do good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture - The old faith and the old culture referred to by Rajaji are not merely for Hindus, not merely for India but for the whole world. Joseph Schelling, German philosopher, in his old age, thought the Upanishads the maturest wisdom of mankind. Today that wisdom is essential not only for the rebirth of the Indian nation but also for the re-education of the human race”.
(Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)