The BJP would like to have cordial ties with the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu at least till the Assembly elections in May 2021, but it is in no mood to relent in its protests against the Dravidian party-run state government’s restrictions on the public celebration of Vinayaka Chathurthi. The parties’ battle is now also being waged on Twitter.
In its order on August 14, the state government prohibited public celebrations and processions, and erecting and immersing of Ganesha idols due to COVID. The BJP has been demanding that the rules should be relaxed as it is a cultural festival.
On Thursday (August 20), the state government said that the restrictions were in accordance with guidelines issued by the Centre for the celebrations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It also pointed out that the Madras High Court has directed the public to adhere to the state government’s rules.
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The statement came a day after senior BJP leaders taunted the AIADMK. H Raja, national secretary of the party, tweeted that the state government in Karnataka is a “masculine government” as it has permitted Vinayaka Chathurthi celebrations.
In response, Raj Satyen and Kovai Sathyan, the secretaries of the AIADMK’s IT wing, said Raja should prove his “masculinity” by at least winning a scout election.
The remark was a reference to the loss H Raja suffered in the election for the president of Bharat Scouts and Guides (Tamil Nadu). He had managed to win only 52 of the 286 votes polled.
The BJP’s reaction came from CT Nirmal Kumar, the party’s state convenor IT and social media, who said the AIADMK leaders had hidden behind a ‘saree’ for 30 years, referring to the party that was under the stewardship of late J Jayalalithaa.
It was a fight among individual leaders thus far. But, at this point, the AIADMK’s official Twitter handle joined the battle. It said the Tamil Nadu government will not pledge its people’s lives for the communal interests of someone who can’t even defeat NOTA in elections. “Let them fight elections independently and at least save their deposits. They can prove their masculinity this way,” it said.
Amid all this brouhaha, the top brass of the party, including chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam, maintained stoic silence, just as in 2017 when they took a similar stance to similar remarks made by S Gurumurthy, the editor of Tamil newsweekly magazine Thuglak.
Addressing the media, fisheries minister D Jayakumar said, “The AIADMK government is a masculine government. Raja should not rub us the wrong way.” Interestingly, it was Jayakumar who confronted Gurumurthy on behalf of the top party leaders in 2017, too.
The Hindu Munnani, a rightwing organisation, has said it will defy the state’s order and install about 1.5 lakh Ganesha idols in the state. A PIL was filed against the Hindu Munnani in the Madras High Court. The court, however, refused to pass any order saying that the state has already issued an order in its wisdom.
On August 18, a petition filed in the Madurai bench of the High Court sought permission for public celebrations. The court not only refused the permission but also said the petitioner would be fined if he did not withdraw the petition.
The state president of TN BJP L Murugan and other senior leaders approached the chief minister Palaniswami at his residence to get some restrictions eased but in vain.
On Thursday, Murugan said that the BJP will support the Hindu Munnani. “When the state has allowed the opening of TASMAC and public worship in small temples, I am unable to understand why the government is refusing Vinayaka Chathurthi celebrations in public. When Maharashtra, where COVID cases and deaths are high, has allowed Chathurthi rallies, why can’t the Tamil Nadu government give us permission? The Hindu Munnani, too, has not sought permission for a rally but only for keeping idols in public and worshipping them,” he said.