Udhayanidhi Stalin compared ‘Sanatan’ with “dengue, malaria, fever, and corona”. While asking it to be “eradicated”, thus serving the BJP an electoral issue — not just for the upcoming state election but for next year’s Lok Sabha polls — on a golden platter. The BJP after a slight delay, probably not wanting to shift focus from the G20 summit in Delhi — lapped it up. The issue if kept alive till January will be a legitimate weapon in the ruling party’s arsenal when the grand Ram Temple is expected to be inaugurated by the Prime Minister. It will be BJP’s moment to answer to the ‘Sanatan’ barb with the long-standing emotion in the north of Vindhya, particularly in the Hindi heartland.
If Tamil Nadu has a history of anti-caste resistance that gives Udhayanidhi the political confidence, Ram Janmabhoomi movement stories are still passed on to the millennials in the North that the BJP is confident about. If Udhayanidhi is sure about the Periyar legacy, the BJP is confident about Ashok Singhal – the former working president of Vishva Hindu Parishad.
But going to 2024, however emotive, cannot alone be an issue along with BJP’s regular ‘vikas’ statistics, which, by the way, is important but not tangible to the regular voters. BJP needs to keep its voters, particularly those running the household, happy by checking retail inflation. The fact that the Modi government has slashed the prices of LPG cylinders by Rs 200 shows it is ahead of the curve. But it can’t be complacent riding on the ‘Sanatan’ wave.
SANATAN ROW: GIVING FULL TOSS IN SLOG OVER
By the time Stalin Junior says his comment doesn’t suggest his alleged anti-Hindu mindset, the BJP already made an issue out of it. From Amit Shah to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, all top guns took sharp digs at not just DMK, which stands to benefit from this controversy, but the overall INDIA bloc of which the DMK is a part.
After a slight delay due to the ongoing G20, Modi on Thursday blamed the entire opposition for the comment from Madhya Pradesh, “A few groups are working to divide the country and society… They have come together to form an INDIA alliance. They have also decided on a hidden agenda to attack India’s culture. The INDIA alliance has come with a resolution to end ‘Sanatan’ culture.”
BJP’s biggest showstopper went on to revive the controversy — “Today, they have openly started targeting Sanatan, tomorrow they will increase the attacks on us. All ‘Sanatanis’ across the country and the people who love our country will have to be alert. We will have to stop such people…”
Earlier, the BJP held a press conference on the row from its national headquarters while it’s Tamil Nadu Co-In charge Ponguleti Sudhakar Reddy also took a sharp dig in Delhi, not Chennai because the saffron party’s target audience is in the Hindi heartland where the issue has a massive emotive connect.
The fact that MK Stalin or senior leadership of the bloc stepped in late gave the BJP ample time to play this full toss according to its wish in a slog over. A Raja to Priyank Kharge — their support only added fuel to fire.
If the BJP is now able to last this row till January, when the Ram Mandir will be inaugurated, it will only bolster into a full-fledged electoral issue in the run-up to next year’s Lok Sabha elections when Modi will seek re-election for his third term.
BUT… ‘DANA, PANI’ SHOULD REMAIN BJP’s TOP FOCUS
It’s fair to say that it’s hard to beat the BJP in the game where religion comes in. But there lies the problem too. With perceived success, complacency has a chance to set in.
Even if the BJP manages to last this controversy till January and compounds it into a poll issue, it cannot for once take its eyes from what troubles a common man or more so a woman — inflation, food prices, running the household within the budget.
The fact that PM Modi has announced the LPG cut shows he is mindful of that and doesn’t need anyone to tell him the ground realities. The fact that his government is expanding Ujjwala Yojana to another 75 lakh beneficiaries is evidence that he has his fingers on the nerve of people. But still there are concerns.
Just till a few weeks ago, tomato prices were above Rs 200 per kg. Though August brought some respite, but that’s not enough for the quintessential common man. India’s retail inflation eased to 6.83% in August from July’s 7.44% after a 15-month peak, but still remains above the central bank’s upper tolerance limit of 6%.
Prices of onion, dal and oil, which is called food inflation, that accounts for nearly half of the overall basket, was up 9.94% in August compared with a rise of 11.51% in July. In simpler words, August was less painful than July but continued to pinch the pocket.
BJP has few advantages — strong mandate, reliable Prime Minister with highest ever approval rating and communication skills. But going forward, it should not be complacent while milking the controversy and ignore where it hurts most to even a person who is angry with Udhayanidhi Stalin’s comments.