Understanding Narendra Modi’s Tamil pitchOctober 3, 2019
In his September 27 speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked the verses of Tamil poet Kaniyan Pungundranar who lived three millennia ago. “Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir”, Modi said- ‘we belong to all places and to everyone’ – to emphasise that this sense of belonging beyond borders is unique to India.
At a convocation at the IIT Madras, the Prime Minister spoke again in Tamil and, once again, described it the world’s oldest language.
What explains the Prime Minister’s love for the southern state? Those familiar with Modi’s political trajectory see in his repeated invocation, a political design of the BJP to make inroads into Tamil Nadu. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections it won 303 seats across the country but drew a blank in all five seats it contested in the southern state. The AIADMK-lead alliance the party was part of was routed.
Seen as realpolitik, Modi’s Tamil push does have a major political objective. One perhaps of dispelling the impression of a ‘North Indian BJP’ pushing Hindi into the South at the cost of regional languages. This impression was politically and deliberately created by the DMK following Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s push for Hindi on the national Hindu Day recently. This in turn is beneficial to BJP politically because it is yet to make major political inroads in Tamil Nadu.
While Modi is an astute political strategist, there is also a nationalist side to him. He truly believes in his ” Ek Bharat Shreshta Bharat slogan because it encompasses his vision for India as a united cultural entity. Be it slogans or technology, he usually targets multiple objectives with a single stroke. This thinking is visible even when it comes to technology when he looks for technologies with multiple uses.