Opinion: Behind Udayanidhi Stalin's Relentless "Anti-Hindu" Statements

When Udhayanidhi Stalin doubles down on his perceived anti-Hindu rhetoric, there obviously is more than meets the eye.

Tamil Nadu is no different from the rest of the country in terms of the religious break-up of its population. The majority of the voters in the state are Hindu.

So why did a statement by the state’s minister of Youth Welfare and Sports Development about wanting to “destroy Sanatan Dharma” cause a furore outside Tamil Nadu but barely a flutter within?

Why did Stalin Junior, son of Chief Minister MK Stalin and heir to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) throne, follow it up with another statement – that he is against a temple being built on a destroyed mosque?

Why did the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department and the police refuse the livestreaming of the Ram Temple consecration and singing of bhajans with aplomb, citing oral orders?

The answer to these questions is the same. The Tamil Hindu voter sets aside religious rhetoric before deciding whom they will vote. What does make a difference is caste pride and appeasement, and the government’s delivery on essential services and promises, and, to some extent, how well the voter is bribed.

The Tamil voter knows that the DMK candidates will flock to local temples ahead of elections – they are expected to donate generously to these local temples and make the thiruvizha or festival a grand success. When not in an election year, the sitting MLA is expected to fulfill this obligation each year.

The Tamil voter also knows that the DMK is big on rhetoric, often filmy and emotional. Over 60 years of watching propaganda films, of watching the DMK water down its ideology to be more appealing to the masses, of cult leaders and wannabe cult leaders, and the Tamil voter knows.

Sure, there are some youngsters who swear by atheism and rationalism but the state is not vastly different from its northern or western counterparts. Tamil Nadu is as profoundly devout as Gujarat or Maharashtra or West Bengal.

The Tamil voter knows that the politics of the DMK, however modern and visionary it may sound, is rooted in caste, and that the party will not upset the existing caste hierarchy for any reason. This was the case since the days of former Chief Minister C Annadurai. When in the 1968 Kilvenmani massacre, 44 Dalits were killed by upper caste Hindus, Annadurai, who was Chief Minister, maintained a stoic silence and the perpetrators were almost allowed to escape law. Not much has changed since then. A year after criminals mixed human faeces in the drinking water tank of Dalits in Vengaivayal, they are yet to be punished. Catch Udhayanidhi Stalin or any other DMK leader utter a word about caste issues – they can kiss their political career goodbye if they did.

The Tamil voter is aware that the DMK has built a massive propaganda machine over the past 60 years in the state. That the DMK has a chokehold on the Tamil film industry and the cable industry is well known. It is also known that the DMK has its own men as editors in most Tamil language television, print and digital media.

Perhaps this knowledge spurs the average voter in Tamil Nadu to discount all bluster and keenly focus on what they get out of the vote.

For some, it is money in hand. For some others, it is a way of punishing an errant MLA or MP. For yet others, it is the knowledge that a politician will be part of their lives, in weddings, in various functions, and in death.

About 30 percent of the electorate votes only for the symbol. This number will reduce in the coming years, as cold logic will increasingly dictate whom to vote.
It is for this reason that ministers in the DMK cabinet are able to make blatantly disparaging remarks about Hindus while appeasing members of other religions.

All this rhetoric is simply noise to try and divert public attention from anger over floods, the lack of jobs and the increasing challenges faced by Tamils.

The DMK are masters of spin.

(Sandhya Ravishankar is a journalist)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.

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