Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday played the Tamil card on his first visit to Tamil Nadu after his re-election in May.
He recalled that he hailed Tamil as “the most ancient language in the world” in his address to the UN General Assembly session. “Now Tamil is echoing in the US”, he said at a reception hosted by BJP workers at Chennai airport.
His remarks assume significance while Modi won a resounding second term, the BJP was routed in Tamil Nadu. Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s remark at Hindi Nivas last month that India should have a national language and Hindi, spoken by over 40 per cent, should be that language has led to protests with the DMK planning street protests. Shah later clarified that he only favoured Hindi an additional language besides mother-tongue.
Ignoring the clarification, DMK president M K Stalin announced date for a State-wide agitation. Strangely, he suddenly dropped the plan after meeting Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit who reportedly told him that the Centre has no plan to impose Hindi on non-Hindi people.
This was more or less reflected by the Prime Minister at the ‘Howdy Mody’ event in Houston where he emphatically said India is a nation of many languages and cultures, thus distancing himself from Shah’s views.
Tamil Nadu BJP stands isolated at the moment not only over the language issue but also because of strident anti-Modi feeling in the State. The ruling AIADMK, which is scared of standing up Modi, has boldly kept the BJP out of the campaign in Vikhravandi and Nanguneri by-elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly due on Oct 21 for fear of losing minority vote.
With elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly due in May next year, Modi has to play the Tamil language and culture card to remove impression that the BJP is a north Indian party and, as DMK ideologue Murasoli Maran put it, BJP stands for Hindi, Hindu and Hindutva.