8:59 am - Thursday November 5, 2015

No more Acche din: PM Modi is losing his charm in Tamil Nadu politics

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Relief for Modi as court upholds SIT closure report
Relief for Modi as court upholds SIT closure report

Chennai: A few months ago, there was a unique spectacle in Tamil Nadu politics – no leader spoke against Narendra Modi. Modi appeared to be a consensus candidate to head the national government.

A few of the smaller parties such as PMK, MDMK and DMDK were in alliance with the BJP and hence wouldn’t speak against him, but for unknown reasons, the DMK and AIADMK, which fought the elections against the BJP also chose to remain silent. DMK was perhaps worried about the cases by central agencies against some of its leaders while the AIADMK might have been hopeful of a post-poll alliance. Anyway, the crux of the matter was that nobody spoke against Modi even in the heat of the moment.

The situation seems to have completely changed now. During the last three days, MDMK leader Vaiko hit out against Modi, followed by another ally, PMK’s Ramadoss, and the DMK’s Stalin.

On Monday, an angry Vaiko condemned Modi for speaking in favour of the re-election of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu. In his speech, Modi had exceeded his diplomatic limits, Vaiko said. He added that none of India’s former prime ministers had made such remarks. He went on to the criticise the BJP, for its leader Subramanian Swamy’s demand that Rajapaksa should be conferred with the Bharat Ratna. He said the BJP leaders could demand the award for Gandhiji’s killer Nathuram Godse.

In response, BJP’s national secretary H Raja threatened Vaiko. He said Vaiko may not be able to reach home safely if he continued to criticise Modi. Vaiko, however, laughed it off.

It’s clear that the MDMK is out of the BJP alliance and the days of camaraderie are over. A few months ago, during the Lok Sabha elections, Vaiko was one of the loudest votaries of Modi as prime minister. He had said that Modi would become the prime minister even without the 40 seats from Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.

Following Vaiko, Ramadoss also came out of his alliance-shell and took on Modi. On Monday, he said that the prime minister was not above criticism. He said Modi’s stand on Rajapakse, even if it was for the sake of courtesy, cannot be accepted. He brushed aside the appeal from BJP state president Tamilisai Sundararajan, who asked the leaders to refrain from criticising Modi.

The third leader in line was DMK’s Stalin. Although not an ally, neither Stalin nor the party chief had spoken a word against Modi during or after the elections. Not only had Stalin spoken out, he also chose to pick on Modi’s economic policy and use strong language.

Stalin said that under Modi, the country was moving from a mixed to a capitalist economy in which big corporates got their “bonanza” while the poor got only a “pittance”. In an interview to PTI, he said: “it appears that the path towards capitalist economy is being refurbished, switching from a mixed economy under the Modi government.”

“We see indications of the poor being handed out a pittance and corporate honchos and huge investors appearing all set to receive a bonanza of sorts,” he added.

Stalin also said that in the six months since Modi took over, RSS agendas such as a Hindu Rashtra and Sanskrit were gaining prominence.

It’s clear that the BJP’s honeymoon period is over in Tamil Nadu. Evidently, the reason is its inability to work as a regional party in Tamil Nadu that reflects the state’s aspirations. The welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils, animosity towards Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse for his alleged war crimes against Tamils, and imposition of “northern languages” such as Sanskrit have a huge emotional appeal to the people of the state. They are absolutely non-negotiable for the home-grown parties and none of them can take a contra view. The BJP, if it has to survive in the state, will have to toe this line.

However, at the national level, the BJP cannot do that and it will certainly affect its prospects in the state. In fact, the Congress state unit struggled with this dichotomy for ever and finally became an electoral untouchable. Unable to handle it any more, former union minister and a prominent leader GK Vasan left the party recently to revive the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC).

Tamil Nadu is one of the jewels that BJP Amit Shah would like to target, but he will soon realise that he cannot replicate his model in the state because it will not tolerate the BJP’s political line vis a vis Tamil Nadu.

Will the BJP government take a tough stand against Rajapakse? Will it rein in Subramanian Swamy regarding his relationship with the Sri Lankan regime? Will the BJP’s national leaders speak the same language that the local parties speak? Otherwise, the BJP might also end up in the same impasse that Congress had been stuck for years.

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