'Tamil Nadu is a paradox. We have more places of Hindu worship per square kilometres than any other place in the world.'
'We break more coconuts for religious reasons everyday than any other place in the world.'
'At the same time, we also have a very strong Periyar-infused movement of rationalism.'
first part of an exclusive two-part interview:
"I am a temple-going, superstitious, ritualistic and astrology-believing Hindu, but I am a secularist. I believe all faiths are equal and faith is a private affair," Karti P Chidambaram, the Congress's Lok Sabha MP from Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu, tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih in the first part of an exclusive interview.
You recently tweeted that India is fast becoming a theocratic oligarchy. Why do you feel so?
We seem to be moving in a direction where Hindutva fundamentalist ideas are formulated as policy. There seems to be an overplay of ideas that have resulted in CAA/NCR, 370 Abrogation, love jihad and cow slaughter bills.
A muscular Hindutva agenda is being thrust upon this nation by various acts of this government. There is a theocratic bent to all the actions undertaken by the BJP.
The party is advocating a Hindu Rashtra aggressively, blatantly and overtly. There is not even a pretence of tokenism or subtlety any more. If you look at the new government in Bihar, there is not a single Muslim in the cabinet.
The BJP wants to change the names of places bearing even the slightest Islamic tinge with ancient Hindu names. They want to hark back to a supposed ideal 'Hindu Age'. The public discourse is being laced with a Hindutva agenda.
We are becoming an oligarchic state because big projects seem to be going to a favoured few. The same names keep cropping up again and again.
This idea about One Nation, One Election, One Ration card, One Everything -- all goes into strengthening my belief that we are turning into a theocratic oligarchy.
In the run-up to the Tamil Nadu election next year, do you feel the BJP is attempting to Hindutvatise Tamil Nadu?
Tamil Nadu is the last frontier for the BJP and they will make attempts to become electorally relevant in the state.
Tamil Nadu is a paradox. We have more places of Hindu worship per square kilometres than any other place in the world.
We break more coconuts for religious reasons everyday than any other place in the world. At the same time, we also have a very strong Periyar-infused movement of rationalism.
People will go to pray to Lord Muruga and then go and vote for a party that espouses atheism.
I am a temple-going, superstitious, ritualistic and astrology-believing Hindu, but I am a secularist. I believe all faiths are equal and faith is a private affair.
The BJP cannot evoke Hindu sentiment and find a foothold in Tamil Nadu. The BJP's version of Hindutva is very brahmanical, while Tamil Nadu's political movement has been against brahmanical hegemony.
The BJP also comes with the baggage of being seen as a Hindi party which evokes strong, negative emotions in Tamil Nadu. They need to shed brahmanical Hindutva and Hindi image to have any resonance in TN.
They are trying to shed the brahmanical hierarchy in the party, but I can't say if that will succeed in the short run.
With the vacuum created by J Jayalithaa's demise and the increasing influence of the BJP on regional partners as seen by the reception received by Mr Amit Shah in Chennai.
Do you think the BJP is in a position to wield greater influence on AIADMK, its alliance partner in Tamil Nadu?
The AIADMK does not have any charismatic leader anymore so they have to kow-tow to the BJP. The average AIADMK cadre which is used to being lead by a supreme leader like J Jayalalithaa does not approve of this though.
Riding with the BJP is not going to help the AIADMK. The AIADMK-BJP match is not a winning combination in Tamil Nadu. The moment the BJP comes into a formation, the minorities leave that alliance.
I feel the DMK-Congress front is the winning alliance in Tamil Nadu.
The BJP by virtue of being in the central government has the power to inflict pain.
The BJP has a long way to go in Tamil Nadu. They have two very difficult drawbacks to overcome:
1. Brahaminical Hindutva.
2. Obsession with the Hindi agenda.
Giving up both won't be easy for BJP because their core ideology is based on these two factors.
What are the challenges confronting your alliance which has been out of power and now has to stand up to Modi's BJP in the fray?
Numerically our alliance is very good. There are certain values that the Congress brings. There is anti-incumbency -- these factors will contribute towards giving us a comfortable victory.
It is very important for the DMK which will lead the alliance to come up with a growth agenda for the aspirational youth of Tamil Nadu. This agenda needs to be articulated and communicated rather early.
The communication of agendas should be done months ahead of the elections; it can't wait till the last three weeks. The DMK has still not done it and I hope they will soon come out with a positive growth agenda for Tamil Nadu.
- Part 2: 'I am the most raided person in India'
- Part 3: 'Priyanka Gandhi has a lot of goodwill in Tamil Nadu'
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com