Two months after the BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit faced a backlash from ally AIADMK for using an image of party founder M G Ramachandran in a teaser video for a BJP event, there were huge cutouts of MGR as well as K Kamaraj, a veteran Congress leader and former Chief Minister, at the venue of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Coimbatore on Thursday.
Congress leaders called it shameful, saying that Kamaraj had been subjected to an attack by the RSS. However, an RSS leader denied that the organisation had any role in the attack and said there was nothing wrong in the decision to use a cutout of the leader.
Meanwhile, at the rally at Codissia stadium on Thursday, PM Modi targeted the DMK-Congress alliance in poll-bound Tamil Nadu and said a meeting of leaders from the two parties would be like a “corruption hackathon” as they often meet only to discuss “how to loot”. The Prime Minister also launched several projects in Coimbatore at an event attended by Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Deputy CM O Panneerselvam. The Neyveli New Thermal Power Project and a 709 MW solar power project for four southern Tamil Nadu districts, a modernisation project of the Bhavani Sagar dam to irrigate up to two lakh acres of land in Erode, Tirupur and Karur, the eight-laning of Korampallam Bridge and Rail over Bridge (ROB) at VOC port in Tuticorin, a cargo management centre near Sriperumbudur near Chennai, 4,144 tenements built in Turupur, Madurai and Trichy regions for the homeless were among the key projects Modi inaugurated in Coimbatore on Thursday.
Lauding the Tamil language and culture, the Prime Minister said at the rally that the NDA and AIADMK governments working together was a classic example of cooperative federalism and listed a number of Central schemes citing the cordial relationship between the state and Union governments. “Opposition style of politics is based on bullying and harassment. Whenever DMK comes to power, they promote a strong man culture. In every district, they have anti-social elements who trouble innocent citizens. Their party leaders extort money. Do you know who suffers the most in such a culture? It is the women of Tamil Nadu. Entire Tamil Nadu knows how DMK treated Amma Jayalalithaa-ji,” Modi said.
Meanwhile, EVKS Elangovan, one of the senior-most Congress leaders in Tamil Nadu and the former chief of Tamil Nadu Congress Party, told The Indian Express that BJP and RSS have no right to use the image of a leader whom they tried to kill once. “When he (Kamaraj) was the president of All Indian Congress Committee (AICC), RSS people tried to kill him in Delhi because he was from Tamil Nadu. They have no right to use his picture now,” Elangovan said.
Congress spokesperson Anand Srinivasan said, “They appropriated Sardar Patel first. And what happened? They replaced his name with Narendra Modi in the Gujarat stadium… BJP and RSS should be shameless, they go everywhere and try to appropriate leaders. Their effort to appropriate Kamaraj means nothing but that they are eyeing Hindu Nadar votes,” Srinivasan said.
Claiming that he wasn’t aware of Kamaraj’s photo at the Coimbatore rally, H Raja, senior RSS leader and the former national secretary of BJP, said, “What is wrong in it? He was part of Jan Sangh alliance with Rajaji in 1971. What happened to his own outfit Indian National Congress (Organisation)? It was merged into Janata Party later. What is wrong in BJP using his photo then.”
Responding to Elangovan’s allegation that RSS had tried to kill him once, referring to an incident in which his house was burnt down by Hindu groups in Delhi, Raja said it was an incident that happened in 1967 in which RSS had no role. “Did the chargesheet mention the name of RSS in Mahatma Gandhi assassination? No. Similarly, RSS had no role in that attack against Kamaraj too. RSS name was not mentioned anywhere. The attack was following his controversial remarks, ‘why not kill, why not eat’, in response to a conference organised by various Hindu organisations in 1967 against cow slaughter. RSS did not attack him but some of the people who were hurt by his remarks were behind it,” Raja said.
Ramu Manivannan, who teaches political science in the University of Madras, said, “There is a section of people who use Kamaraj for their community identity. Other than targeting this group to expand their community-based expansion in Tamil Nadu, I don’t see any other factor for BJP to use Kamaraj’s image in their party rally. They never spoke about his governance or policies. It is kind of projecting the Hindu Nadar votes, which is undoubtedly an emerging vote bank for BJP in Tamil Nadu,” Manivannan said.
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