Murugan who was BJP Tamil Nadu chief was made Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry in the latest expansion of the Modi Cabinet.

BJP leader and Union Minister of State L Murugan in a white shirt, Tamil Nadu map, BJP flag and a lotus symbol can be seen behind
news Politics Thursday, July 15, 2021 - 12:50
The inclusion of L Murugan in the Union Cabinet had been a move that took many by surprise. While names of several leaders from the south were doing rounds as probables, the BJP Tamil Nadu president was not one of them. The decision to appoint him as the Union Minister of State was made keeping long term expansion plans for BJP in Tamil Nadu.

In the run-up to the Tamil Nadu elections, Murugan, as the BJP party chief had led the Vetrivel Yatra despite the then Tamil Nadu government, led by their ally AIADMK, not giving permission for the volatile campaign. While the controversial yathra did not make much of a dent, it successfully showed BJP how it can customise their Hindutva with the local sentiments. By attaching Hindutva with Lord Murugan in Tamil Nadu, Murugan won the confidence of the BJP high command to lead their entry into Tamil Nadu. 

The NDA government then wooed the Devendra Kula Vellalar community by agreeing to club the seven sub-castes just ahead of the elections. Murugan’s elevation falls under BJP’s plan of SC consolidation in Tamil Nadu. Murugan is the first from the Arunthathiyar community to be made a Union Minister. And with this, the BJP hopes for the backing of another caste within the SC umbrella. 

The appeasement could also help the BJP make inroads into the Kongu belt which has 57 seats. It happens to be the stronghold of BJP’s ally AIADMK, which won 41 seats from the region, contributing largely to the total of 66 seats it won this election. The Kongu region is dominated by three castes--Kongu Vellalar (Gounders), Arunthathiyars and Devendra Kula Velalar. 

“Even among the SC community, the Arunthathiyars have been neglected for a long time. BJP is the first party to recognise a leader from the community and make him a state leader. And further elevated as a Union Minister,” Vanathi Srinivasan, BJP National President of the Women's Wing told TNM. “For a long time, BJP has been projected in Tamil Nadu as a party favourable to one community. Political opponents have wrongly projected that BJP has been against Dalits. So the BJP would like to send a message to the scheduled communities that we are ready to recognise a leader from the community and elevate to the highest position,” she added. 

By accepting the one demand made by Devendra Kula Vellalars and elevating a leader from the Arunthathiyar community, BJP is also trying to break its image in Tamil Nadu of being a party only for the Upper Castes. 

Murugan is also being rewarded for BJP’s performance in the state. Under his leadership, the BJP won four seats after a long time in the state. “After over 20 years, BJP MLAs have entered Assembly in such numbers. This time, the expansion has tried to accommodate youngsters, next generation leaders and geographical representation also has been taken into consideration,” said Vanathi.

An aggressive, educated leader from an SC caste is the perfect ambassador for the BJP in Tamil Nadu, a source said. Murugan, as the Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), had summoned the Managing Director of Murasoli Trust, which owns the DMK mouthpiece, to appear for hearing on a land issue in 2019. The source added that this had impressed the BJP high command, leading to him being taken seriously as a man who could lead their campaign in Tamil Nadu.

 

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