Tamil Nadu votes for secularism, social justice and federalism but the threat from Hindu majoritarianism remains

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By P.K.Balachandran

Colombo, June 5 (Counteroint): In the just-concluded 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Tamil Nadu is perhaps the only State which voted unequivocally and emphatically to uphold the three basic pillars of the Indian constitution, namely, secularism, social justice and federalism.

The INDIA grouping comprising Dravida Munnetra Kazgafam (DMK), Indian National Congress (INC), Communist Party of India Marxist (CPIM), Communist Party of India (CPI), Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK), Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) swept the 39 constituencies in the State leaving none to the BJP-led NDA.

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) drew blank.

Ideas propagated by the BJP and approved by its camp followers such as Hindu fundamentalism, centralisation, and the abolition of reservations based on social inequality through the enactment of a new constitution, have suffered a telling blow.

But it should be noted that the forces opposed to Tamil Nadu’s core values have collectively increased their vote share from 3.6 % in 2019 to 11.1% in 2024. This should be taken as a warning of the challenges head.

The DMK won all the 22 seats it contested. The Congress won 9 out of 9. The Viduthalai Chiruthalaigal Katchi won both the seats it contested. The CPI(M) and CPI both won the two seats they fought for. The MDMK and IUML were successful in the seats they contested.

BJP’s Campaign

The campaign of the BJP-led alliance was spearheaded by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself who visited Tamil Nadu a record number of times, clearly indicating that he intended to capture the Secular-Dravidian fortress of Tamil Nadu which had doggedly resisted Hindutva (or Hindu nationalistic) forces since independence.

In a determined bid to inveigle the Tamils, Modi honoured composer Ilayaraaja, a Tamil icon, by giving him a seat in the Rajya Sabha. To win over Tamil non-Brahmins Modi replaced the Brahmin State unit President, Ela Ganesan, by Non-Brahmins L.Murugan, Tamilisai Soundararajan and K. Annamalai successsively.

And to promote Hindutva among Non- Brahmins he organised trips to Varanasi to “Hindutvise” them. When he inaugurated parliament’s new building in New Delhi, he took a “Sengol” a politico-religious symbol of divine kingship in Tamil history and planted it in the new parliament to link him to the Tamils’ history.

But none of this worked in the crucial 2024 elections. K.Annamalai the State BJP President, on whom Modi had pinned his hopes, lost in Coimbatore by a margin of 118,069. His other star candidates Thamilisai Soundararajan lost in Chennai (South) by 225,945 Votes. The famous Tamil film actress Radhikaa Sarathkumar came third in Virudhunagar.

However, there was a silver lining in the dark cloud. The NDA increased its vote share in Tamil Nadu from 3.6% in 2019 to 11.1% in 2024.

After snapping ties with the AIADMK, which it had partnered in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and in the 2021 State Assembly elections, the BJP roped in the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), the Tamil Maanila Congress (Moopanar), the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) and a few other smaller parties to form the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for the 2024 elections.

In all, the BJP-led alliance contested 23 Lok Sabha constituencies in Tamil Nadu. The BJP directly entered the fray in 19 constituencies and four of its allies contested on the BJP’s lotus symbol.

Some of the other known faces of the BJP, who, despite suffering defeat, settled in the second place, pushing the AIADMK to the third spot. These were Union Minister L. Murugan in the Nilgiris (SC), former Governor of Telangana and Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry Tamilisai Soundararajan in Chennai South, BJP Legislature Party leader Nainar Nagenthran in Tirunelveli, and former Union Minister Pon. Radhakrishnan in Kanniyakumari.

A.C. Shanmugham of the Puthiya Neethi Katchi, a BJP ally, also stood second in Vellore.

Some of the other NDA candidates who managed to secure the second spot included Vinoj. P. Selvam in Chennai Central, Raama. Sreenivasan in Madurai, Pon. V. Balaganapathy in Thiruvallur (SC), O. Panneerselvam in Ramanathapuram and T.T.V. Dhinakaran in Theni.

Out of all the NDA candidates in Tamil Nadu, only Sowmiya Anbumani of the PMK gave it hope of victory. She led in the initial rounds of counting, but finally lost by 20,000 votes.

The TMC(M), led by G.K. Vasan son of former Tamil Nadu Congress President G.K.Moopanar, which contested in Sriperumbudur, Erode and Thoothukudi as a part of the NDA, failed to secure even the second spot.

In a statement, BJP State President Annamalai thanked the voters of the State. “Though the BJP feel sad for not getting the opportunity to represent the people of Tamil Nadu in Parliament, we will continue to work hard and double our efforts to get the people’s mandate.”

Danger Ahead

The NDA’s increasing its vote share from 3.6% to 11% and some of its candidates coming second, are a note of warning to the secular-liberals of Tamil Nadu. These show that opportunistic politics could lead to the dilution of the Tamils’ traditional commitment to the values of the Dravidian movement such as secularism, social justice and federalism.

Increasing prosperity and the rise of an entrepreneurial class with pan-India links, thanks to liberalization, could lead to ideological infusions from the Hindutva-strongholds (stongholds of Hindu majoritarianism) of the North.

If Hindutva becomes an enduring force in the Northern States, it could begin to shape thinking in Tamil Nadu also. Tamil Nadu is also a Hindu-majority State where people are very religious in their personal lives. But their political culture is still secular. However, this may suffer erosion over time, if Hindutvic influences are not resisted actively.

The NDA’s successes in neighbouring Karnataka (18 seats), Andhra Pradesh (21),Telangana (8) and Kerala (1) also show that liberal South India is not impervious to Hindutva.

The Congress party has rightly appealed to party workers not to relax but to work had to ensure that the Indian constitution in which secularism, federal and social justice are enshrined, is tirelessly propagated so that there is no slippage in the days to come.


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