A DMK rally to mark the 94th birth anniversary of party founder-leader M Karunanidhi and the patriarch’s completion of 60 years as an MLA turned into a stage for leaders of almost all top non-BJP Opposition parties to hit out at Narendra Modi-led “authoritarian” government at the Centre.
While the nonagenarian, who is ailing, himself gave it a miss, leaders from the likes of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien to CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah addressed thousands of DMK supporters on Chennai’s YMCA grounds.
Former Bihar CM and RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar failed to attend the event but sent messages to be read out. Rahul said, “They (BJP) believe they don’t need to speak to anyone, as they have all the answers. They do not believe in conversation or discussion — they only believe in crushing the opposition.”
He said the Modi government believes there is only one path before India, and only one culture that represents this diverse country. “(But) we completely disagree with them,” Rahul said. “We will not let RSS or Modi to impose their ‘One Idea’ of India. We will not allow silencing of more than a billion Indian voices. We are not going to stand and watch their ridiculous ideas.”
Taking on the recent restrictive notification on cattle sale, O’Brien said, “This is a country which believes you can eat what you want, wear what you want. The Centre’s notification is undemocratic, unethical, unconstitutional.”Besides big issues such as women’s reservation and equal treatment of transgenders that the DMK patriarch has raised time and again, O’Brien said, “The other issue raised by Kalaignar (as Karunanidhi is called), which also reflects the views of Mamataji (Banerjee, TMC chief) is protecting regional languages — whether Tamil in Tamil Nadu or Bengali in Bengal, the regional languages are important.”
Clarifying about his Bihar alliance partner Lalu Prasad’s absence, Nitish Kumar said, “He was scheduled to come but could not make it due to high fever…. However, his wishes and respects are with Kalaignar.” He also recalled various social welfare schemes introduced by Karunanidhi and said that he wants M K Stalin, the working president of DMK, to become the CM and take forward his father’s politics of social welfare.
Abdullah, the former J&K chief minister, said, “Initially, the BJP had said they want a Congress-mukt (Congress-free) India. Now they also want an opposition-free India. We are here to ensure the BJP-led government’s anti-people, anti-farmer, anti-constitutional, anti-poor, anti-worker, anti-industry policies, which resulted in GDP growth dipping, are defeated. We will oppose you (NDA) tooth and nail.”
Stating that leaders on the dais “truly represent north to west to south to east” of India, Abdullah wrapped up saying, “I bring you only this message from the people of Kashmir: We will be with you in your struggle, and we hope you will be with us in our struggle, too.”
Stating that Karunanidhi always stood for constitutional values, CPI(M) leader Yechury said, “He never compromised on those values.” Recalling instances when he had politically disagreed with the leader and the DMK, Yechury said Karunanidhi’s wisdom and contributions are crucial at a juncture when India is facing major challenges.
He said, “Today I visited the IIT-Madras student who was beaten up for eating beef (to protest against the new cattle rule). We are at a crisis point where private armies dictate what we should eat, wear, and who we should be friends with. These armies are targeting Muslims and Dalits; you have anti-Romeo squads. You have these private armies running the country, imposing their rules.”
Yechury recalled that Karunanidhi had once asked his daughter’s name. “I said Akhila. He replied that he is the bigger Communist, as he had named his son after Stalin (the Soviet leader),” Yechury said. Reminding the crowd that Stalin’s USSR had defeated the Fascist coalition of Hitler and Mussolini, Yechury turned to Stalin on the dais and said, “So the name has a lot of responsibilities, sir.”
Thanking all leaders, Stalin said that ending the BJP regime to protect Indian democracy is the DMK’s main responsibility now.
“Had Kalaignar been healthy, and with us in this fight, he would have been leading the fight against BJP at the Centre,” he said.
In his brief speech, Stalin asked whether the Modi government can do “whatever they want” just because they had won a few elections. He asked, “(But) what about the promises you made before polls? You said Team India, headed by PM and all CMs. What happened to that idea? What about the promise of 2 crore jobs? What about the promise of doubling agriculture growth? Where is the black money retrieved from foreign countries? What happened to Lokpal you had promised to fight corruption?”
Among others on the dais were former Union minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, Indian Union Muslim League’s K M Kader Mohideen and Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy.