Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers have launched a scathing attack on the INDIA grouping over ally and DMK leader Udayanidhi Stalin’s remark on Sanatam Dharma, the Opposition parties are unable to speak in one voice to counter the BJP.
This became clear at a meeting of INDIA parties called at NCP leader Sharad Pawar’s Delhi residence on September 13 where at least three parties—Samajvadi Party, RJD and JD(U)— did not approve of the stand taken by Udayanidhi Stalin and reportedly warned against raising this issue in north India. While SP was represented by Akhilesh Yadav, RJD’s Tejaswi Yadav, Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, took part in the meeting. JD(U) too sent a senior leader to participate.
In his controversial remark at a party event recently, Stalin had said:” A few things cannot be opposed; they should be abolished. We can’t oppose dengue, mosquitoes, malaria or corona.We have to eradicate them. In the same way, we have to eradicate Sanatan Dharma rather than opposing it.” This touched off a flurry of angry reactions from the BJP and its NDA allies.
In his first public remarks on the row on September 14, Prime Minister Modi accused the Opposition INDIA alliance of seeking to destroy Sanatan Dharma and urged people to be vigilent against “attacks on us across the country.” In his speeches in election going Madhya Pradesh and Raipur, Modi was quoted as saying:” …They (Opposition) want to crush Sanatan and push this country back into 1000 years of slavery. But together, we must stop such forces. With the power of our organisation and a united front, we must thwart their plans.”
Clearly, the northern parties are on the back foot and are learnt to be mounting pressure on the combined leadership to rein in the DMK to arrest further damage. The ruling BJP, on the other hand, has decided to rake up the matter in big way across the country. This has already become an election issue which suits the BJP eminently in its divisive agenda.
What has complicated the matter further is Stalin’s refusal to backtrack his statement. His priorities are different. In Tamil Nadu politics, a strident anti-Sanatan anti-Hindutva stance helps the DMK at the hustings. On the contrary, the development has put the Congress party, a staunch ally of the DMK, in difficulty. Pertinently, Congress party president Kharge’s son has also gone along with Stalin over the issue of Sanatan Dharma. Now the Congress party president himself appears to be in the line of fire.
It is not surprising that the INDIA group meeting at Pawar’s residence could not discuss the much awaited seat-sharing formulae among parties in the forthcoming assembly polls and the parliamentary elections early next year. Apparently, much time was taken in discussing the fall out in north India of the Sanatan Dharma controversy.
Observers say the issue is bound to be raked up by the ruling party members in the special session of Parliament now underway if only to embarrass the INDIA parties. It remains to be seen how the Opposition reacts. There is much concern in the Opposition camp on ways to thwart any attempt to raise a divisive agenda like this one. Apparently, they are preparing to face it unitedly with a common stand. For all one could see, the attempt would be to try and paper over the matter without causing any rift. A likely scenario could be a clarification by DMK leader Stalin himlself. Though he has stood his ground thus far, it is expected that he will climb down and modify his statement in a manner that suits the larger Opposition.