Udayanidhi Stalin’s call to eradicate Sanatana Dharma and his equating it with dengue, malaria or Covid 19 has raked up another controversy and given the BJP fresh ammunition to take on the Opposition. Home Minister Amit Shah’s interpolation of Stalin Junior’s comments as a call to genocide of 80% of India’s population is not only excessive but indicative of the ruling dispensation’s lack of issues ahead of state and Lok Sabha elections. It is very clear that this will become a major poll plank given the BJP’s template of polarisation ahead of any major electoral exercise. Udayanidhi Stalin had merely said Sanatana Dharma was against the principle of social justice, encourages casteism, oppresses women and therefore should be eradicated. Reminiscent of the anti-Brahminical movement of Periyar, Stalin junior referred to the battle fought by his grandfather M Karunanidhi against caste oppression and Brahminical mores. While pointing out that the Dravidian movement encouraged mobility between classes and actively promoted lower castes becoming priests in temples, Stalin junior also cited the practice of sati, oppression of widows and child marriage to make his case against Sanatana Dharma. The BJP, which is desperately trying to make an electoral impact in Tamil Nadu, has latched on to Stalin Junior’s statement in the hope of gaining some traction among the Hindu electorate.
That the BJP will make it a key issue was apparent when Amit Shah at a rally in poll-bound Rajasthan said parties like the DMK and Congress were bent on insulting the Hindu faith and were practicing appeasement politics to pander to vote banks. This favourite theme of the BJP has found resonance among voters but whether it will continue to strike a chord among the people remains to be seen. Bread and butter issues also affect the electorate and rising prices will surely have an impact. While busting the fake news factory of the BJP’s IT cell, Stalin Junior clarified that he did not call for genocide. Citing the BJP’s pet phrase of Congress Mukt Bharat, a DMK spokesperson pointed out that it cannot be interpreted as a call for genocide of Congress supporters. A logical argument but it is unlikely that the right wing eco system will see it in this light. Udayanidhi’s Stalin’s comments also have to be seen in the context of the one nation, one poll formula being touted by the Central government. This attempt to impose uniformity in a diverse, multi-religious, multi-ethnic country is what is opposed by regional parties who see it as an assault on the concept of federalism, the basis on which India as a Union of States was founded.