File photo of Dayanidhi Maran. ( Image Source : PTI )
It is becoming increasingly clear that existing fault lines on the language issue have sharpened after DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran’s old but shocking remark that people from Bihar and UP clean toilets in Tamil Nadu have put DMK’s alliance partners in North India at a disadvantage. Rightfully condemned by one and all, given the tone and tenor of the statement of the former telecom minister, many are beginning to wonder if this is akin to Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyer’s ‘chaiwala‘ jibe moment. The Congress leader’s comment had given ammunition to the skilful orator that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to turn it into an advantage.
And now, clearly, the BJP has picked up this issue to make it a big one — and will surely rake it up in North India as well as in Tamil Nadu, going by the activity on the ground. Tamil Nadu BJP leaders are also going to town with the insult to Bihar and UP, and clearly, their counterparts in the North are also targeting the Congress and its alliance partners on this issue.
The DMK’s stance over Hindi has been sharp as it has always opposed “Hindi imposition”. And the more it rakes up the language issue, the more it benefits politically in Tamil Nadu. But this time around, it may not be so. Also, this time, it is not the DMK that has raised the topic, but it is the BJP that pounced on an old tweet by the DMK leader, which has now gone viral over social media and sparked off a furore not only in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh but in other Hindi-speaking states as well.
What Dayanidhi Maran had said in his speech was that those who learn only Hindi in UP and Bihar, come to Tamil Nadu to work in the construction sector and clean toilets. Now this crass statement, even if it may be a fact that a majority of those engaged in the menial jobs in Tamil Nadu are Hindi-speaking migrants, the way he said it was highly objectionable, and those outraging against it can’t be faulted.
Trouble For I.N.D.I.A?
All this has put the opposition bloc, I.N.D.I.A, in a quandary. I.N.D.I.A leaders will find it difficult to tolerate and justify the ally’s shocking remarks about UP and Bihar residents, and this has the potential to damage DMK’s alliance partners politically in the forthcoming Lok Sabha general elections.
Now, the BJP, in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere, has made this into a big issue as it helps the party to create a wedge between the opposition alliance partners. Language being an emotive issue, this DMK leader’s rant would prove costly for the opposition alliance given the ability of the BJP to mount aggressive campaigns that stick.
Leader after BJP leader took the DMK MP to task for his remarks and questioned why Congress and other opposition alliance leaders tolerated such insulting comments. Former telecom and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the people of Bihar were forced to go to Tamil Nadu because of the condition of the state under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla accused the I.N.D.I.A bloc of trying to divide the people of the country along the lines of caste, language and religion. “Will Nitish Kumar, Tejashwi Yadav, Lalu Yadav, Congress, SP Akhilesh Yadav all pretend that this isn’t happening? When will they take a stand?” Poonawalla asked.
But to be fair, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav did condemn the DMK leader’s remark as he said “without the people of Bihar, other states would cease to function and come to a standstill”.
“If any leader of that party has said something about the people of UP and Bihar, then it is condemnable. We do not agree with it. The labourers from UP and Bihar are demanded all over the country. If they stop going elsewhere, then states will cease to function and come to a standstill,” Yadav said.
The DMK has already shot back by sharing a video in which BJP leader Tarun Vijay can be heard calling South Indians “black people”.
It is to be seen now to what extent this new controversy damages the alliance and its chances in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The author is a Bengaluru-based senior journalist.
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