Between October and November, two videos released by the Tamil Nadu BJP have grabbed people’s attention and left its electoral ally AIADMK miffed. The reason is that former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and AIADMK founder Dr MG Ramachandran (MGR) features prominently in both. While AIADMK has accused its ally of appropriating its leader’s legacy, the BJP says it’s merely honouring a national leader in its party videos.
The 5.14-minute-long video juxtaposes visuals of BJP state chief L Murugan walking through a field with visuals of MGR also walking with a plough over his shoulder. At another point in the same video, Murgan drives a tractor, and these visuals fade into a black-and-white clip of MGR also on a tractor.
In another video, which is 3.24 minutes long, the party takes a dig at the Dravidian parties and its followers with the lyrics going - ‘Black crowd and the red crowd will be defeated by the saffron crowd’. An image of MGR fades then into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s picture as the lyrics say, 'We see Modi as the man with a golden heart (MGR)'.
These publicity materials have left AIADMK fuming. While BJP has maintained that there is nothing wrong in using MGR’s reference, the AIADMK has not taken too kindly to it. Senior leader KP Munusamy told The Hindu that this was not acceptable and that the ideologies of the AIADMK and the BJP are totally different.
KS Narendra, State Vice President of Tamil Nadu BJP told TNM that the party is not appropriating MGR or using his legacy. “MGR was a nationalist Chief Minister. Anybody who loves the country will love MGR. His schemes when he was in power were pro-poor like how Modi’s schemes are. Hence we are honouring him by showing him as an example,” he said. Adding that using MGR references in BJP’s promotional materials doesn’t mean that the party is claiming his legacy, Narendran said that BJP has also done a lot for Dr BR Ambedkar and even CN Annadurai. “Does it mean that we are appropriating them?” he asked.
MGR isn’t the first leader from Tamil Nadu whose legacy the BJP has been accused of trying to appropriate. In the past, the BJP has been accused of trying to appropriate former Chief Minister and Congress leader Kamaraj’s legacy. In fact in 2018, a fight broke out between the workers of Congress and BJP in Tamil Nadu when BJP's Pon Radhakrishnan was due to garland a statue of Kamaraj.
With the 2021 Assembly Elections months away in Tamil Nadu, the BJP, which has been attempting to gain a foothold in the state, has embarked on its campaign with renewed vigour.
‘Tharasu’ Shyam, a political commentator from Tamil Nadu told TNM that the videos have been made to cater to the psyche of the people of Tamil Nadu. “People here have that soft-spot, sentimental value for agriculture, farming, (Cauvery) delta etc. I think the BJP is, therefore, trying to appeal to the masses by portraying its leader as farmer-friendly,” he said.
Referring to the usage of MGR’s visuals in BJP’s publicity materials, Shyam said that apart from MGR, BJP cannot really appropriate any other great leaders Tamil Nadu has seen. “They cannot use Annadurai, Kalaignar or Kamarajar. Jayalalithaa was the chief of the party that’s currently in power, so that was ruled out too. Hence MGR is the only option they probably had,” he explained.
BJP’s video is the latest tussle between the two allies. The AIADMK government had denied the BJP permission to undertake its Vel Yatra, even going on to detain its party chief on Friday and Sunday. “BJP cannot go alone in the upcoming polls in Tamil Nadu. These videos, at best, would give them a higher hand at bargaining for seats in the polls and later,” Shyam pointed out.
வெள்ளை நிற குதிரையில் கருப்பசாமி வாராரு,— BJP Tamilnadu (@BJP4TamilNadu) November 5, 2020
வீச்சருவா மின்னுதப்பா என்ன செய்ய போறாரு,
வீரத்தலைவன் எங்க முருகன் பக்கம் வாராரு,
நாளா வெற்றியும் வர நல்ல வாக்கு தாராரு
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