TN’s tryst with spiritual politics

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With superstar Rajnikanth pitching for “aanmiga arasiyal”, or spiritual politics, for his yet-to-be-launched political party, DMK leader MK Stalin, who aspires to be the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, is making a nuanced move towards that space — as his party founder CN Annadurai did in 1949. Rajnikanth plans to launch his party in 2021 and will share details about the same on December 31.

In 1949, Arignyar Anna, as fondly known in Tamil Nadu, split the Dravidar Kazhagham to form his own Dravida Munnetra Kazagham after difference of opinion emerged on various issues. Sensing that Dravidar Kazagham founder Periyar’s rustic atheism will not win votes, Anna adopted Tamil Shaivite saint Thirumoolar’s scholarly verse: Onre Kulam, Oruvane Devan (One God, One Community) to usher in a new spirit in the DMK.

When Periyar went about breaking the idols of Pillaiyar (Ganapati) in 1953, Anna’s stance was that he would neither break the idol nor the coconut (for worship). The subtle shift had not only helped the DMK to reach out to the masses but also helped it to form the government in 1967, within 10 years after it had entered electoral politics. Recently, addressing a virtual meeting of DMK cadre from Ramanathapuram district, Stalin said some people think they will succeed only if they talk about spiritual politics, in an obvious reference to Rajnikanth’s political move. Stalin echoed Swami Vivekananda’s view that serving others and being good at heart are the best forms of spirituality and that his party was created for that purpose.

This is a marked shift in stance, as all these years DMK leaders had avoided talking about spirituality or quoting spiritual leaders openly. However, former Chief Minister and Stalin’s father M Karunanidhi had started writing about Ramanujar, a revolutionist Vaishnavite sage, but could not complete the work. Will tilting towards Swami Vivekananda’s ideology help Stalin attain chief ministership as did Thirumoolar for Anna?

KS Badri Narayanan

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