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After Ilaiyaraja, it’s now the turn of Bhagyaraj to endorse Narendra Modi.

The BJP has certainly hit the bull’s eye as far as their choice of film personalities to back them goes. Ilaiyaraja is not just a celebrity but he is someone Tamils see as one of their own, a man so rooted that he embodies all things Tamil.

Bhagyaraj, too, is the quintessential Tamil. He too is rooted, intelligent and sensible. He is self-effacing but at the same time sure of his place in the world. He has a point of view.

One of the many stereotypes he brought to life on screen remains the standard explainer on that topic. His Ek Ghaav Mein still captures best the apparent stubborn resistance of Tamils to learning Hindi. They can’t get Hindi and they couldn’t be bothered to get it.

To get Ilaiyaraja and Bhagyaraj to speak for Modi is a coup the BJP has engineered. While Ilaiyaraja stuck to his guns and refused to go back on his stance, Bhagyaraj quickly did a somersault.

In his speech at a BJP event, Bhagyaraj said those who criticized Modi were not full humans. They were deficient, he chided them. But the next day, Bhagyaraj said he remains a Tamil and a follower of Dravidian/Tamil leaders. He also apologized for the political incorrectness of his term since it slurred the differently abled.

Both Ilaiyaraja and Bhagyaraj have been hauled over the coals on social and mainstream media for being out-of-character. The narrative is still that the BJP is foreign or rather alien to Tamil soil. It signifies the logjam the BJP finds itself in Tamil Nadu despite its almost complete dominance of the national narrative.

Yet, Ilaiyaraja and Bhagyaraj have just about peeled off one layer of untouchability the BJP faces in Tamil Nadu. If these two could support Modi, so could others without quite losing their cool quotient.

Yet, Ilaiyaraja and Bhagyaraj have just about peeled off one layer of untouchability the BJP faces in Tamil Nadu. If these two could support Modi, so could others without quite losing their cool quotient.

But these are all atmospherics. Tamils don’t stand solidly by Dravidianism because they have been served identity kool-aid. They vote for the Dravidian parties because the parties deliver in welfare, if not in governance or corruption.

Free marketers may call the Tamil Nadu government a nanny state. But it’s made Tamil Nadu. It’s made crores of Tamils move up in life.

Tamil identity and anti-Aryan ideology is only the icing on the cake. The dough, the flavours and the baking come from a transactional relationship.

The BJP, on the other hand, has been running one of the most tight-fisted governments India has had. Narendra Modi is the quintessential Gujarati businessman who gives nothing away and wants everything.

The Dravidian hold over Tamil thinking is a transactional relationship. Annadurai came to power due to not just the anti-Hindi agitation but more because he promised rice at Rs 2 a kg. Fifty-five years later, instead of the price going up, the poor get the rice free in ration shops while in the open market rice is at least thirty times more expensive.

The BJP, on the other hand, has been running one of the most tight-fisted governments India has had. Narendra Modi is the quintessential Gujarati businessman who gives nothing away and wants everything.

The narrative is welfare but all around there has been a cut-and-slash. Coming out of the pandemic, this year would have been perfect time for a massive boost in government expenditure to stimulate the economy. The US has come up with a package involving trillions of dollars, for instance. But, instead of spending more and stimulating the economy, the finance minister shrank growth in government expenditure in her budget.

Two articles in inmathi.com showed that despite tall claims of extraordinary generosity in giving loans towards small businesses, there has actually been a belt tightening. Increase in credit flow from banks to small businesses has slowed and spluttered compared to the 2007 – 2014 period.

If the Mudra loans had indeed put a lot more money in the pockets of the common Tamil, as the BJP has claimed, he or she would have looked at the BJP with more benevolence. Compare this with just one scheme the Tamil Nadu government has instituted this year. Every girl who comes out of a government school will get Rs 1,000 every month if she goes to college. Six lakh women will start moving to college after school on their own steam. They will have money for transport and some pocket cash to buy food. A new world will await these graduates and post-graduates.

The hard-boiled Tamil can’t be fooled. He knows who butters his bread.


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