Language Learning

Language issue being whipped up by DMK, won’t work this time: Annamalai

The politics over language being spearheaded by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is a “dead horse” in Tamil Nadu and will not have any resonance with the people during the 2021 Assembly polls, former IPS officer and Tamil Nadu BJP Vice-President K Annamalai said. In an interview with Deccan Herald’s ETB Sivapriyan, the police officer-turned-politician spoke in detail about the BJP’s plan in Tamil Nadu, the language issue and relevance of social reformer E V R Periyar.

Listen to the interview:

Edited excerpts:

You have chosen a party, BJP, which is not quite popular in Tamil Nadu. You say you joined politics to bring about a change in the state but why choose a party which is not popular in the state?

I do not see it the way you are seeing it. BJP is the largest political party in the world with over 11 crore members and possessing the largest number of elected representatives. In a state like Tamil Nadu, it is just a matter of time a party like BJP comes to power. All indicators point to the fact that people are fed up of Dravidian politics and BJP would take up the space that is being opened now. More importantly, politics is always about the call you take based on your heart because you got to align with the party.

You say people in Tamil Nadu are fed up with the Dravidian parties. And what do you think should change in the state?

In Tamil Nadu, for a long time, whether it is right or wrong, the politics was oriented around personalities. We had Annadurai, Kalaignar Karunanidhi, later MGR, and Jayalalithaa and what happened was that these personalities pulled most of the votes for their parties. For the first time, we do not have any political personalities in the frame now, and it is a fairly open contest. I also agree that the political parties have a certain core base of committed voters. But this core base is different from personalities who can pull votes. Secondly, the voters are pretty young now. Close to 42 per cent of voters are below the age of 39, and these young voters look at politics in a much different way than the people who voted for other parties previously. This 42 per cent can make the difference, though they do not vote much. I hope and pray that they are the natural voting base for the BJP. And I think a lot of differences will happen in the grassroots before 2026.

You said 2026 is your target but if you just go back a year, the BJP could not win even a single seat in Tamil Nadu in 2019 polls. What do you think has changed drastically that BJP has gained ground now?

2019 was an abnormal election and not a normal election in Tamil Nadu. What happened was an artificial Modi was built inside the state by the very strong media portals, and opinion makers and everything was projected as anti-Tamil Nadu and it was done absolutely by pumping in loads of money. But if you look at the same voter who had preferred the DMK in 2019 over the BJP-AIADMK alliance, he now realises that they had made false promises. For the first time they are seeing that Modi ji’s schemes are reaching the nook and corner of Tamil Nadu. Lot of changes on the ground and this is the difference I am seeing.

You mean to say that the anti-BJP and anti-Modi wave are a thing of the past and that the BJP is acceptable to the people of Tamil Nadu?

100 per cent. Not only is BJP acceptable, it is also becoming a party of choice for a lot of youngsters and other people. Because a lot of things like corruption and internal structure in political parties and if you look at everything in totality, the BJP is connecting to a common man now and the main reason is PM Modi’s scheme.

Are you coming to say that the Dravidian parties are cut-off from the common man’s aspirations and the BJP is the only party which is reaching you to the common man?

Dravidian parties are bearing a lot of things like family politics, corruption, scandals, fights within their own family and not having new faces in the party. They have MLAs who have served six to seven terms and who do not connect with the young voters. These are all tough things for a Dravidian party to bear and to overcome these and come to the battlefield and take on (BJP) electorally will be tough.

Tamil Nadu had always flaunted its linguistic identity and Tamil pride. Off late, there have been a lot of instances of Hindi being imposed on non-Hindi speaking states. Do you think BJP can make a common cause with the people of Tamil Nadu where Hindi is not welcome?

Hindi was never imposed in Tamil Nadu by the BJP. Hindi was imposed in Tamil Nadu in 1965, 1968 and 1986 by the Congress governments. The three-language formula proposed in the New Education Policy (NEP) does not impose Hindi and it is very clear that the third language is optional, and it could even be a regional language. The only thing that Dravidian parties do is to play with the Tamil pride. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the one who propagated Tamil by quoting Thirukkural and Kanian Poongundranar. If this is the case, how can BJP be anti-Tamil? These are absolutely baseless allegations and they do not have anything constructive to engage with us and they keep going back to the same old dead horse and keep flogging it.

Do you think Hindi imposition issue is a dead horse? Because you talked about Modi taking Tamil to the UN, but the counterview is that will the language grow just because the Prime Minister recites a few verses in global forums?

(M K) Stalin ji when he went to West Bengal for Mamata Banerjee’s swearing-in ceremony, in what language did he speak? He calls himself a proud Tamil and he then speaks a form of Bengali which nobody understood there. We are looking at the intention behind who we are. The Prime Minister, of course, is a Gujarati and he cannot recite all 1,330 Thirukkural or neither can he read Kamba Ramayanam. So, it is all the intention that counts. The intention of the PM is pro-Tamil and that is why he brought the Chinese President to Mamallapuram to see the Tamil culture.

You mean to say that language issues may not strike a chord with Tamil people anymore?

This election it is absolutely zero. People are seeing DMK for what it is. For example, see the recent campaign Hindi Theriyadhu Poda. People have whipped them, and they have really understood who started the campaign and who printed the t-shirts. Did you see any common man wearing the t-shirt in Chennai or Coimbatore? For the first time, DMK themselves understand that Tamil-Hindi divide might not work in 2021 elections. It is all about developmental politics. DMK themselves have realised this.

The Hindi imposition resonated across the country and there are protests in Karnataka with people saying Hindi Gotila. How do you respond to these protests and are these also orchestrated?

I have seen Karnataka and I have served there for some time and it is a state where a lot of people speak Hindi. If you look at Bengaluru city per se, the Kannadigas are in a minority because it is a city where North Indians, Tamils, Telugus, and others reside. I will not agree that Karnataka has said Hindi Gotila. It is also orchestrated. Because Karnataka is a state I understand and it is a more nationalistic state and if you take north Indian states, Karnataka equally contributes manpower to the Indian Army. So, the (protests in) Karnataka are fully orchestrated. In Tamil Nadu also it is managed because a few people can always be convinced. The common man wants to learn Hindi. They want to learn a language of choice and convenience.

The BJP wants to overthrow Dravidian parties and the party has been opposing E V R Periyar. But now the state president L Murugan and you have praised him. Is it not a contradiction?

I do not see it as a contradiction. Because we are not saying (Dravidian) leaders are 100 per cent bad. Periyar has done some good things. I look at Periyar in two dimensions. Before 1925 and after 1925. The Periyar before 1925 was different from the Periyar after he launched Dravidar Kazhagam and that is where the problem starts. All they did after that was abusing god and abusing women and Tamil literature. Please read our statements in context. Using very bad language or outdated language against Periyar is not what we believe in. Periyar is gone now. 2021 is all about Narendra Modi. It is all about developmental politics and what good can happen to Tamil Nadu.

Do you mean to say Periyar is irrelevant?

I am not saying he is irrelevant. We need not talk about him. What he has done, right or wrong, people know. The electoral space in 2021 has a different dimension and BJP is a party that stands by its core ideology. We will not use harsh language against anyone.

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