Man who rose from agitation for ‘Ayodhya in the south’ in BJP in charge of Tamil Nadu

CT Ravi speaks to TNM on a host of issues regarding Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu--from Sasikala to #GobackModi trends
Karnataka minister CT Ravi
Karnataka minister CT Ravi
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Just days after a formal announcement of the alliance between the AIADMK and BJP for the upcoming Tamil Nadu elections, BJP National General Secretary CT Ravi, in an exclusive conversation with TNM said the alliance was necessary to ensure that a ‘corrupt’ government that supports ‘anti-nationals’ by DMK does not come to power. Ravi also alleged that social media trends like #GobackModi when either the Prime Minister or Home Minister visited the state were bolstered not by the Tamil people but were retweeted by accounts in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Ahead of Amit Shah’s visit to Tamil Nadu on November 21, the AIADMK and BJP were engaged in a war of words over permission for the Vel Yatra by BJP. Ravi says the heated exchange will not hinder the alliance. “The AIADMK was not opposed to the Vetrivel yatra. As a government they did what they should have and as an organisation we did what we should have. So they arrested us. In a family there are always differences of opinions but just because there is a difference it will not head for divorce. We may not agree on all issues but keeping in mind the interest of the state as well as the nation, in all states where it is required and inevitable we have formed alliances. If NDA was not in place in Tamil Nadu, the most corrupt government would come into existence. A government that supports anti-nationals,” he told TNM. 

CT Ravi is a four-time MLA from Karnataka’s communally sensitive Chikmagaluru constituency. He shot to fame as a young activist during the Baba Budangiri confrontation in his hometown. Called the ‘Ayodhya of the South’ by the then VHP leader Praveen Togadia, the clash for the hill that was called Bababudangiri was a violent one. While one section claimed that it was a sacred Hindu shrine which is the final resting place of Lord Dattatreya, another section contend that the dargah situated on the hilltop is one of the earliest pilgrim centres for sufism in India.

CT Ravi has been at the epicentre of this, driving his political career from there to being a cabinet minister in Karnataka. He recently resigned from his position to take up responsibilities as the National General Secretary for the BJP, made in-charge of several important states including Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.  

Ravi is known for his fiery speeches, unapologetically pushing his party’s Hindutva pet projects; from anti-cow slaughter to ‘love-jihad’. During the anti-CAA/NRC protests, Ravi had publicly warned of Godhra-like reaction and had warned protestors ‘to not test the patience of the majority’. 

BJP senior leaders believe that while handling a state like Tamil Nadu, CT Ravi’s brand of fiery, brash, pro-Hindutva and anti-Muslim rhetoric will help them make a foray into the state. And his comments on Vetrivel Yatra, Manu Smriti controversies indicate the party’s strategy as well. The BJP has not had much electoral success in Tamil Nadu in the past and the state that has not voted for a national party in over five decades has been an uphill battle for the BJP. As against their campaigns in other states, issues like cow slaughter, love jihad and other Hindutva-related poll planks have been avoided in Tamil Nadu. 

“In the last six years since PM Modi came to power, a total of Rs 5,10,000 crore have been given to Tamil Nadu. No other Prime Minister has quoted Tamil language and Tamil culture as much as our Prime Minister has, from Tirukkuṟaḷ to Tamil history. When foreign dignitaries or heads of state would come to India earlier they would be taken to Taj Mahal. For the first time our Prime Minister brought them to Mahabalipuram. We will talk about these things in our campaign. There are several positive points with which we can emotionally connect with the Tamil people. At the same time there are developmental issues as well. Meanwhile, the DMK and their allies are most corrupt and people who support anti-nationals. So these will be issues on which we will fight elections," he alleges.

CT Ravi also alleges that the negative social media trends that surface ahead of every visit of Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are manufactured by those opposed to their ideology, all the while insisting that people from Tamil Nadu don't endorse it. “People from places like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Bihar and West Bengal retweet trends that are against us like #GobackModi or #GobackAmitShah. This is not done by people of Tamil Nadu because why will they go ask those who have done good things for the state to go back? When we searched those hashtags we saw that they were being re-tweeted from elsewhere but not Tamil Nadu. This shows that DMK supporters are there in Bangladesh and Pakistan as well. When Amit Shah came, people had come to receive him. People saw that for the first time in the history of Tamil Nadu a BJP head had been received by so many people in the state," he said. The claim about Pakistani handles trending the hashtag has been made before and debunked too. Read here.

The Sasikala factor still looms large for the AIADMK ahead of her imminent release from jail. The BJP, Ravi says, does not have any view on the equation she shares with the AIADMK leaders. “Whether they will once again unite or not is their internal party issue. We do not usually intervene in such matters. Once the AIADMK is part of the NDA, we only focus on policy from thereon.” 

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