OP Raveendranath has in the past too, made noises directly and indirectly toeing the right wing line, while not facing any serious consequences from the party high command.

Hindu first AIADMK MPs comment to curry favour with BJP or a Hindutva turn
news Politics Friday, September 06, 2019 - 19:08

OP Raveendranath Kumar, AIADMK's sole Lok Sabha representative and Theni MP has stirred up a row once again. Addressing a Hindu Munnani event on the occasion of Vinayaka Chathurthi on Thursday, the Theni MP asked all people to put their Hindu identity in the forefront, leaving their other identities aside. "We all should have the emotion of being a Hindu first. Other identities come later. Only then can we create a strong and united India,” Raveendranath's speech was quoted by The Hindu. He also went on to praise Prime Minister Modi for being re-elected in 2019.

“It was because of Lord Vinayaka’s grace and Theni people’s love and affection that I have become an MP today. I thank god and the people for that. Last year, I flagged off the Vinayaka idols procession in Chinnamanur. Back then, I had said that only Narendra Modi ji would return to power. Likewise, our Prime Minister Mr Modi has come back for the second time. He is working towards making India a superpower. We, as citizens should stay united to make our country a superpower nation,” he said, as quoted by The Hindu, while addressing the crowds at Chinnamanur in Theni. 

OP Raveendranath has in the past too, made noises directly and indirectly toeing the right wing line, while not facing any serious consequences from the party high command. In July 2019, the MP, who is the son of Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam supported the Triple Talaq Bill that was passed in the Parliament amidst high drama. In his speech, he lauded the effort by the Prime Minister to 'give equal power to women in our society’, making  the AIADMK seem like they had taken a U-turn from their earlier position. 

The party had, however, back in December 2018, walked out of the Lok Sabha over the Triple Talaq Bill – which banned instant divorce by Muslims and imposed a three-year jail term on husbands who practiced it. The bill was termed 'barbaric' and senior AIADMK leaders had sought an amendment to remove the three-year jail term. 

Despite Raveendranath's statements, AIADMK waited 3-4 days to clarify their stance, with Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar finally confirming that Jayalalithaa's anti-Triple Talaq stance remains the party's take on the bill. 

So is Raveendranath speaking out of turn or is he merely being vocal about the AIADMK's support to further Hindutva identity politics in the state?

Speaking to TNM, a source from party said that they 'have to change with the times'. 

"Politicians have to change based on what people believe and want. Earlier leaders like Periyar said that there was no god and said we must not follow a religion," he said, "But now we can't say things like that."

When asked if this was because of the support that a party like BJP got across the nation, he added, "We can see what the majority of people want. There was one generation that accepted an ideology of rationalism but now ideas have changed. A party's ideologies and rules are for people, so we must see what people want and then change ourselves."

The source, however, added that "as the people's representative, the MP should not have said he was a Hindu first." 

However, a senior journalist from Tamil Nadu, Lakshmi Subramanian, said she wouldn’t read too much into the incident and believes that these are attempts by OP Raveendranath and his father OPS to remain on good terms with the BJP government.

"It is a known fact that the senior leader and his family have always remained friendly with BJP leaders. OPS was personally present when Modi filed his nomination in Varanasi in April 2019 and when he landed in Theni to campaign, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. They want to toe the line with the central leadership, perhaps to grab the limelight or stay relevant," Lakshmi added. 

According to RK Radhakrishnan, associate editor of Frontline and political analyst, the incident does not expose any ideological shift in the party. 

"This can be seen as lack of guidance that the MP has received, or as another attempt by him to curry favour with the central leadership or the PM. Even during the Triple Talaq row, many AIADMK leaders spoke about abandonment of wives happening across other religions/communities, with the majority incidents happening among Hindus," he said. 

The AIADMK high command has been wary of responding to these instances and clarifying the party stance. 

"With the Chief Minister on a foreign visit, other senior leaders will not respond. They would not want to antagonise the centre by reacting," Lakshmi adds.

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