Tamil Nadu government says no to Vinayaka Chaturthi processions, signalling a widening rift in AIADMK-BJP alliance

Published : August 14, 2020 14:48 IST

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami. Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan

The State government and the Sangh Parivar are at loggerheads over how the Vinayaka Chaturthi celebrations should go on even as the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed over 5000 lives in Tamil Nadu. The government wants people to have the celebrations at home. While one Sangh Parivar outfit has taken objection to this decision because such celebrations are useless as far as the organisation is concerned. The pomp and the show and processions with huge Vinayaka idols are central to their display of politicised religiosity, as Chennai has witnessed for over two decades — a practice relatively new to the city.

On August 13, Hindu Munnani State president K.C. Subramaniam said the organisation would install Vinayaka idols in over 1.5 lakh locations in defiance of the government order. He told the media that the installations would go ahead as planned with adequate precautionary and safety measures. The government wants to prevent such installations because the State is in a lockdown owing to the coronavirus pandemic and the focus is on ensuring that the disease is brought under control.

This is not the only instance of the State government taking on allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the State. Two weeks ago, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswamy announced that the State would oppose the National Education Policy (NEP), sending shockwaves across the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) itself and its alliance partners. The Chief Minister, who swayed an unwilling and reluctant Cabinet to his opinion, held the view that the AIADMK should oppose this policy because, among other things, introduction of the three-language formula as part of the NEP would be detrimental to the interests of students of the State. "The Chief Minister opposed the NEP even after being aware that this was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project. This says something. He is willing to take that risk," said a source close to the Chief Minister.

The government also reacted strongly to an instance of desecration of the statue of AIADMK founder MGR in Puducherry and to a similar attempt on the statue of E.V. Ramasamy Periyar, father of the Dravidian Movement, in Coimbatore. The Chief Minister described those who indulged in the act in Puducherry as "wild animals", and has invoked the provisions of the National Security Act to detain the person involved in the Coimbatore incident.

In another incident involving the BJP, on the directions of the Chief Minister, the cyber wing of the Central Crime Branch booked BJP functionary S.Ve Shekher under Section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. Shekher, who has posted derogatory content against many, including women journalists, in the past, put out a video in which he claimed that each colour in the national flag depicted a religion. He did this soon after the Chief Minister’s reaction to the desecration of the MGR statue in Puducherry. Shekher is now trying to extricate himself from the mess he has got himself into and told The Hindu that his party, the BJP, had let him down.

The Chief Minister’s action of taking on the BJP will politically help the AIADMK in a State where the BJP has hardly 3 per cent votes. But his colleagues are not sure if this is the path forward. On more than a few occasions Ministers have cautioned the Chief Minister on the path he has embarked upon, said one source privy to the developments. But the Chief Minister had pushed back so far, the source added.

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