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'Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu will challenge BJP'

By Shobha Warrier
April 30, 2021 11:24 IST
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'If Kerala votes back the LDF, if Tamil Nadu brings the DMK and if Bengal votes for the Trinamool, we will project a formidable opposition to the BJP.'

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party leader Amit Anilchandra Shah during an election road show at Domjur in Howrah district, West Bengal April 7, 2021. Photograph: PTI Photo

"Tamil Nadu and Kerala would present themselves as model of resistance against the BJP, for the entire country," Dr R Manivannan, professor and head of the department of politics and public administration at the University of Madras, tells Shobha Warrier/ in the concluding segment of a two-part interview:

Is it not because the Opposition has become very weak especially the Congress? Is the Congress not helping the BJP's idea of a Congress-mukt Bharat by disintegrating itself?

Nobody is sympathetic towards the Congress as there is no difference between what the Congress has done before, and the BJP is doing in a more assertive manner now.

Can the BJP say corruption-mukt Bharat instead of Congress-mukt Bharat? The Congress was corrupt and if corruption was the issue in fighting the Congress and the family, why can't they say corruption-mukt Bharat?

The Congress does not have a leadership now; it has exposed beyond doubt that there is a leadership vacuum there.

There are some young leaders who may come up in the next 10-15 years' time. But by then, the BJP would have done much greater damage to India's polity.

If we look at the campaign styles of various political parties in this assembly election, we see that the most aggressive and confident campaign was by the BJP?
On the other hand, whether it was the DMK or the TMC or the Left, all of them were on backfoot defending themselves.


The BJP did not have a single member in the Tamil Nadu assembly, but wanted to replace the Dravidian parties. Look at the gap between its status and attitude.

In Kerala, they wanted to bring the saffron party to power when they have just one MLA in the last assembly. The party was not even in a position to become an Opposition party in Kerala.

What happened in Pondicherry was a stab on democracy.

If you look at the way the BJP has campaigned in the southern states and also in West Bengal, it was nothing like an electoral campaign. It was more like stamping out the Opposition.

Why were these political parties on the backfoot?

All the BJP members in these states think they are ruling every space in the nation including the state governments.

Tamil Nadu was virtually ruled by the BJP from Delhi. So, they feel they are in control of all these places.

Then, using the enforcement agencies as a means of coercion. My question is, in Tamil Nadu, they did so many raids in so many places. Is there any conclusion in any of them so that they could send anybody to prison?

You kept them under attack all the time. Why didM't you try them if they are corrupt? 

But, using central enforcement agencies against the Opposition for political gains was done by the Congress too.

I agree. The difference between the Congress and the BJP is, the BJP is more organised as a party and its leadership.

Ideologically, they are more fascist, more centralised and more authoritarian. They also believe in one party, one leader, one rule when there are many nations in a country called India.

You mean they don't understand pluralism?

Yes, they don't understand pluralism which is very important for the survival of Indian democracy.

When I spoke to some of the DMK and Congress leaders in Tamil Nadu, they were of the opinion that the Brahminical, north Indian culture propagated by the BJP will never be accepted in a state like Tamil Nadu. Do you feel that way?

Yes, I too feel that way. Even the AIDMK will not subscribe to their ideology, that is, if they are given the freedom of speech.

The problem is not just about the idea of a Hindu nation, it is a mask for the upper caste to run the whole system.

You say everyone in this country is a Hindu, but the truth is, everyone is not an equal Hindu.

In Tamil Nadu, I don't think we are outside the caste system. But there is at least a consciousness, resistance and questioning to address this inequality.

It is not only Brahminical, the Manu Shastra also has been challenged in a very systemic way.

If you look at India, we see the strongest resistance to the BJP in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Is it because of the deep-rooted Dravidian ideology in Tamil Nadu and Communism in Kerala?

Yes, of course. Ideological factors are very important.

I always feel people of Kerala are more Communist than the party, as you have the ethos and values of Communism deep rooted in Kerala society.

Similarly, the Dravidian ethos are there in the civil society in Tamil Nadu.

Sooner or later, ideological battles will be fought in India. We are not saying it will be fought like Maoism, or Marxist Leninism.

We are talking about a battle within the framework of parliamentary democracy which is non-violent and democratic.

If it didn't work for a long time, the political system would be compelled to take options like revolutionary democracy. Then the conflict will be between democratic revolution and revolutionary democracy which will be violent.

Will it go that far?

It may not, because we are not there. The democratic revolution is such that people will come in large numbers to vote a fascist or a corrupt government out. We are moving closer towards that scenario.

In the country's journey towards that, how important are these assembly elections?

Certainly, they are very important. Today, if Tamil Nadu votes out the AIDMK, the vote is not against the AIDMK alone, but also against the BJP.

What is standing between the BJP and the people of Tamil Nadu is the political, and ideological orientation like the idea of the nation, the idea of society, and the idea of religion.

Are people going to give more importance to ideology than corruption?

It is a necessity now. By corruption, we mean public expenditure and treasury. Without treasury, a government cannot run the state. So, it has to be a continuous concern of the people.

At the same time, they have to be concerned about the system -- how authoritarian the system is, how fascist the system is, how undemocratic the system is, and how do they resist such a system?

These two have to be combined; corruption and ideology.

Would you say the results of these assembly elections will have a larger impact on the country's democratic process?

I absolutely believe that. If Kerala is able to vote back the Left Democratic Front, if Tamil Nadu is able to bring back the DMK and if the Bengal is able to vote the Trinamool back, with all their faults, we will be able to project a formidable Opposition for a larger goal. I am not saying they are all puritans.

I am convinced that Tamil Nadu and Kerala would present themselves as model of resistance against the BJP, for the entire country.

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Shobha Warrier /