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Governor R N Ravi is a BJP asset in Tamil Nadu. His constitutional position gives him the gravitas that the vocal state BJP president Annamalai lacks.
Keeping a check on the DMK government more effectively than the opposition parties, Governor Ravi goes beyond his constitutional role, playing a political one as DMK’s nemesis; his agenda being not just keeping a check on the state government’s powers by stalling legislation but also to provide an ideological counter to the Dravidianism touted by the ruling DMK.
With pointed and specific interventions, Governor Ravi, as he oversteps his Constitutional mandate, believes his larger purpose is to make Hindutva and BJP’s brand of nationalism a talking point in the political discourse against Dravidianism. His actions may provide fodder to the DMK canon as he attempts to keep the state government’s narrative of Dravidian glory subordinate to the nationalistic one propagated by the union government headed by the BJP.
Governor Ravi’s agenda is not just keeping a check on the state government’s powers by stalling legislation but also to provide an ideological counter to the Dravidianism touted by the ruling DMK
Take for instance, the recent controversy of Governor Ravi saying Tamizhagam was a better term for Tamil Nadu. The ‘Nadu’ in Tamil Nadu could well indicate a self-contained, self-sustaining entity — a threat to the overbearing nationalism of the union government. Tamil Nadu could mean Tamil nation unlike other states that are a Pradesh — a region or a subset of a universal set called India. So Governor Ravi would rather not use the word Nadu.
As for a quintessential icon of Tamil Nadu like the ancient poet Thiruvalluvar who wrote about ethics, political and economic matters and love in his couplets, the BJP considers him very much a part of the Indic, Hindu universe. Governor Ravi has pointed that out too, just as in the case of Prime Minister Narendra Modi making overtures to Tamils by quoting Thirukkural.
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In the Sanghi view, Hinduism is pan-Indian, and seeks to bring all the diverse and multitudinous beliefs under its umbrella, with the core being the Vedas and Sanskrit. The place of Tamil in this Hinduism is still vague. The BJP doesn’t want to openly assert that Sanskrit or the Vedas are greater than or the source of Tamil religious practices. But it certainly wants the Tamil identity firmly placed under the overarching structure of Hinduism, and not as an independent entity.
The BJP would rather set aside or sweep away the entire Dravidian narrative: Periyar, welfarism as the Dravidian economic model, a unique and separate Tamil identity and so on. Governor Ravi has taken it upon himself to helm that effort better than anyone in the state, including the state BJP president.
The governor is clearly here to provoke the DMK. So far the DMK has been tactful enough to keep the response to the governor within governmental parameters. NEET was made a campaign theme in local body elections, but the DMK has not hit the streets against Governor Ravi’s actions. Only its allies have, showing black flags and marching to Raj Bhavan. But the DMK is conspicuously absent in these activities.
The BJP would rather set aside or sweep away the entire Dravidian narrative: Periyar, welfarism as the Dravidian economic model, a unique and separate Tamil identity and so on. Governor Ravi has taken it upon himself to helm that effort better than anyone in the state, including the state BJP president
DMK MLAs have in fact been instructed not to jump in and raise the pitch on the Governor after the face-off this week. The assembly resolution against the Governor’s omission of parts of his address was quick, firm and made a point. The DMK won’t go too far beyond, besides raising the issue in New Delhi.
So far the Governor has gone to battle but he isn’t winning the war. He will if the DMK loses its cool and starts reacting.
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More than the state BJP and its national party, it is Governor Ravi who has driven the wedge between Dravidianism and Hindu nationalism deeper. That’s the larger battle. It may not be a swift and decisive one but may well turn out to be a prolonged war of attrition.
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