Chennai: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded quickly to Nitish Kumar’s resignation in Bihar by congratulating the JD(U) leader for “joining the fight against corruption”, there could be a lesson for Tamil Nadu. Or, perhaps, warning signal for the corruption-ridden Dravidian State.
While inaugurating his memorial at Kalam’s native Rameswaram on Thursday, Modi eulogised the legacy of the ‘People’s President’ APJ Abdul Kalam. There was a broad hint in this for his BJP strategists that his “fight against corruption” could be extended to Tamil Nadu, where the people, fatigued by long years of high corruption, would welcome healthy alternatives, despite the hardcore critics of the saffron party dubbing it as communal.
RSS ideologue and Tughlak editor S. Gurumurthy does not see the ‘communal’ tag as a big impediment for the BJP gaining roots in Tamil Nadu. He argues that the people are now sick of the Dravidian brand of politics that had only bred corruption and did little for their economic progress. “Tamil Nadu politics is going through a chemical change”, he says. He insists that the days of dominance of the two Dravidian majors over the state’s ballot boxes are fast ending. But even the obdurate optimist admits that the BJP badly needs a leadership overhaul in Tamil Nadu and hopes Team Amit Shah would soon tend to that.
While that ‘overhaul’ might take a few months, PM Modi’s Rameswaram trip for Kalam might start the process of identifying the formula for winning over public support even if that takes time. The grand Kalam Memorial at the temple town stands as testimony to the BJP’s love and admiration for the life of purity and sacrifice that the ‘People’s President’ had lived.
The foundation for the Rs 15 crore memorial was laid on the first anniversary of Kalam’s demise on July 27 last year by Union Ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Manohar Parrikar, besides a couple of junior TN ministers. While it took some struggle to wrench the three-acre land from the state government —Jayalalithaa was no great admirer of Kalam — the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) where the Missile Man had spent most of his pre-Rashtrapati days, undertook the task of building it and got it ready for the PM inaugural in just nine months.
In short, the memorial is a creation of the Modi government. It’s not only a monument to perpetuate the great legacy of the ‘People’s President’ but also as a gift to the people of Tamil Nadu. To quote the PM from the Thursday rally, the temple town, from now on, would not only be a destination for religious fulfillment but also for the ‘spiritual learning’ that Kalam represented. Being a man of deep knowledge despite being humble and simple, Kalam’s life and career reflected the clearness of the blue sea by which he grew up while nurturing his childhood dreams.
The Dravidian parties can lay no claim to the Kalam legacy. Being burdened by corruption charges, they can lay no claim to his memorial either as the BJP Government built it and the DRDO will maintain it. Hordes of visitors in the coming years will thank them for the beautifully crafted structure preserving the memories of the great man through his photographs, portraits, speeches and sculptures.
The Prime Minister had not only flown in for the inaugural, despite his heavy schedule, but also spent quality time with the Kalam family. He told the centurion patriarch Mohammed Muthu Meera Lebbai Maraikayar that they should not feel orphaned by the great man’s sudden death as he (PM) is there now to take care of them. “You can contact me anytime, for anything”, PM told Maraikayar at the memorial even as he played with Kalam’s grandnephew Saleem’s little daughter.
Saleem has been an active BJP member for the last few years and resisted invitations to contest on the party symbol in the last state elections saying he would rather focus on public service. He has been busy with the ‘Dr APJ Abdul Kalam International Foundation’ launched by the Kalam family last October to propagate the late President’s ideals, particularly his Mission-2020, among the youth. He is actively supported by well-known green activist Abdul Ghani in undertaking hundreds of related programmes in schools and colleges across the state. Perhaps, the two young men could provide the much-needed Muslim face for the saffron party suffering a leadership famine in the Dravidian state.
“The BJP badly needs good Muslim youth in its state leadership” rues Gurumurthy. “For long, the party has taken unfair blame as being anti-Muslim. They must take special efforts to correct this”, he said, while speaking about the party’s possible strategies to gain a foothold in the politically parched Dravidian land.
“For a party that has no great support base in the state and no leaders of great stature, there is so much of bickering for positions. The central leadership must step in and set things right, without losing much time. We must prepare for the Parliament poll in 2019 and the state elections in 2021”, said a state BJP senior, requesting anonymity.
Perhaps the PM’s Rameswaram trip might galvanise Team Shah to soon unfurl its ‘Plan TN’, taking heart from the Kalam goodwill....