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Who was Thanthai Periyar?

Arti Ghargi

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Periyar

Two days after BJP’s Lotus bloomed in the north-eastern state of Tripura, a statue of Lenin was taken down allegedly by the BJP workers. A day after the incident, a similar act was reported from Tamil Nadu. This time the statue of Periyar was vandalised.

For Tamil Nadu, Periyar is more than just a social reformer; he is a Thanthai Periyar(Respected Father). Periyar has widespread influence on the state of Tamil Nadu- a state where the Dravidian movement was started and strengthened by Periyar. Periyar’s ideology runs so deep in the veins of Tamilians that even after 45 years of his death, he continues to dominate not only social, cultural but also the political sphere of Tamil Nadu. One of the reasons for this is the self-respect and Tamil Nationalist movement started by Periyar which touched people from all walks of life invoking Tamilian Pride in them.

Who was Periyar?

Erode Venkata Ramasamy also known as Thanthai Periyar (Father Periyar) even today continues to inspire the rationalists across the country. In the Tamil heartland, Periyar is considered no less than a God, criticizing whom would be inviting a lot of wrath upon oneself.

Periyar’s hatred towards Hinduism and Brahminism, in particular, was too radical but his rationale and logic found some admirers, even when they rejected his radical Anti-Hindu propositions. He took pride in his Dravidian ancestry and rejected the dominance of Northern Aryans on Southern Dravidians in its entirety. He considered Brahminism, Vedas and Caste system laid down by Manu a tool of oppression by the Aryans. Therefore, for his entire life, he batted for the abolition of castes and equality among genders, classes and self-respect amongst Dravidians.

The seeds of even prevalent Anti-Hindi notion in south India were sown during Periyar’s 1938 Anti-Hindi agitation when Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari became the Chief Minister of Madras Presidency and introduced Hindi as a compulsory language of study in schools.

Periyar

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Early years of Periyar:

Born into a rich and wealthy family, Periyar was inquisitive from childhood. He questioned the mythologies, pointed out contradictions and countered ideologies. In 1929, he even deleted his surname which he thought indicates towards his caste at the First Provincial Self-Respect Conference.

Growing up Periyar developed abhorrence towards religion as a concept to deceive people from the truth and considered it is his duty to make people aware of it. Though he also fought for allowing Harijans to enter the temple during Vaikom Satyagraha, he himself remained an atheist.

Periyar during his lifetime gained a huge number of followers. They consistently campaigned to pressurize the government to abolish social inequality and thereby removing untouchability the manual scavenging system, etc. The Self-Respect Movement was described from the beginning as “dedicated to the goal of giving non-Brahmins a sense of pride based on their Dravidian past”.

Periyar

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Periyar and politics:

He was a member of Indian National Congress in his early years. However, the dominance of upper caste brahminical leaders in the party led to his decision of quitting the party. He joined the justice Party later on. However, it was until only 1944 he served in Justice Party. At a rally in 1944, he in his capacity as the leader of the Justice Party declared that the party would henceforth be known as the Dravidar Kazhagam. A party that took social reform not as a political motive but as a social motive to root out the inequality prevalent in the society.

Periyar mostly stayed away from parliamentary politics as he felt the only way to achieve his aim of social equality was through masses and not parliament. However, many leaders who didn’t agree with his stance split from Dravidar Kazhagam and formed their own party  Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) under the leadership of C N Annadurai in 1949. Even though the split was due to the method adopted to achieve social equality, the main aim of both the party remained same.

In post-independence era, DMK rose to new heights following the mass mobilization for the Dravidian cause. Even the most powerful leaders like Karunanidhi, MGR and J Jayalalitha and now the new entrant like Kamal Haasan swear by his ideology.

Periyar

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Periyar on Women Empowerment:

Remarkably, Periyar advocated liberation of women from the chains of customs and superstitions that he felt were the reasons of degenerating Dravidian community. The Dravidar Kazhagam vehemently fought for the abolition of untouchability amongst the Dalits. It also focused its attention on the liberation of womenwomen’s education, willing marriage, widow marriage, orphanages and mercy homes.

BJP National Secretary H. Raja’s comment against Periyar, calling for breaking his statue after similar was done to Lenin, was the biggest mistake the BJP hoped not to commit. At a time when allies are on the verge of abandoning BJP ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP is seeking to make a stronger alternative to these allies in the south. Periyar’s ideology runs deep in the blood of Tamilian and he is one of the sources of Tamizhan pride. At such a crucial time, H. raja’s act is nothing less than suicidal for the party.

 

 

Opinion

Vote Share, NOTA and Margins: How Madhya Pradesh slipped through BJP’s clutches

Arti Ghargi

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madhya pradesh

 BJP won 109 seats with a vote share of 41% in Madhya Pradesh. It received 0.1% more votes than Congress but still lost.

 

The result of five assembly elections brought cheers to the Congress and tears (figuratively) to the BJP. Congress took an early lead in the number game and by noon the result of the four state- Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, and Telangana were no longer obscure. But the real nail-biting contest was going on in Madhya Pradesh that gave sleepless nights to both the parties, pollsters and journalists alike. Even 24 hours post the first round of counting, neck to neck fight kept both BJP and Congress clinging on to the hope of victory. Finally, when the numbers on the Election Commission website settled, the Congress had gained an edge over the incumbent BJP with 114 seats while the latter managed to rush ahead on 109 seats.

Kamal Nath

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For BJP, which was fighting the anti-incumbency of more than a decade and a half in the Hindi heartland state, the rout comes as the first big jolt ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. But despite the anti-incumbency, it put up a spectacular fight and made it a difficult playing field for the Congress. Though Congress eventually inched ahead of BJP, a closer look at the vote share tells a different story. The statistics spell out some interesting facts about BJP’s loss.

BJP received more votes than Congress and still lost:

Congress won the 114 seats with a vote share of 40.9%. Whereas, BJP won 109 seats with a vote share of 41%. Which means the BJP received 0.1% more votes than that of Congress. The case of vote shares not equivalently translating into seat shares is not new. A similar scenario also was seen in Karnataka where Congress’ vote share was more than that of BJP but the party was left behind in terms of seat share. Majorly consolidation of popular votes in one constituency is said to be the reason behind it. The broad principle is that parties whose popular votes are more evenly spread across regions tend to have better votes to seat conversion ratio.

Madhya Pradesh

Vote share and Seat share in MP

 

“4337”- the number which could have changed BJP’s fortunes:

The analysis of final election results shows that there were at least 10 constituencies where BJP could have easily outplayed Congress in Madhya Pradesh. These are the seats where the victory margin is less than 1000 votes. The lowest victory margin is in Gwalior South where BJP lost by 121 votes. Whereas, on Rajpur (ST) seat the BJP lost by 932 votes. Out of these 10 seats, BJP lost on 7 seats while Congress lost on 3 seats. As this India Today analysis puts it, the sum total of the victory margins in these seven constituencies (4337 votes) would have put these seats in BJP’s kitty. This number- 4337 votes could have changed BJP’s fortunes and paved the way for Shivraj Singh Chauhan to form the government in the state for the record fourth time.

Madhya Pradesh

Constituencies with less than 2000 margin in MP

Margins Matter:

The vote shares and overall votes polled in favor of Congress and BJP shows that there was a slender difference between both the parties and it was definitely a close call.  Taking this analysis on a micro-level, one can observe that victory margins in many of the assembly constituencies were a decisive factor.  On 18 seats in Madhya Pradesh, the victory margin was less than 2,000 votes whereas on 30 seats the victory margin was less than 3,000. There were 45 seats with victory margin less than 5,000. The extremely strained fights on these 20% seats played a pivotal role.

Congress

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The takeaway from this data is, it is sheer luck that Congress received more votes in these constituencies and the anti-incumbency factor wasn’t at play up to the extent it was expected. Simply put, sheer luck put Congress ahead of the BJP.

 

Note the NOTA factor:

NOTA, i.e. None of The Above options received 6th largest vote in Madhya Pradesh. According to the Election Commission data, with 5,42,395 votes NOTA measured up to 1.4% of the total vote share. On the seats where BJP lost by less than 1000 votes, NOTA polled more votes. If BJP would have received these votes, it could have won some seats. For example, in Suwasra, BJP lost by a margin of 350 votes. Nota votes polled at Suwarsa were 2,976. In Rajpur (ST) seat BJP lost by only 932 votes while Nota votes were counted to be 3,358.

Madhya Pradesh

NOTA votes in Madhya Pradesh

 

NOTA trounced BJP NETAs:

While, NOTA votes, if were polled in BJP’s favor in the ten constituencies mentioned above would have changed the scenario, in some constituencies, it actually trounced the BJP. There were four BJP ministers who polled votes less than NOTA. Finance Minister Jayant Malaiya lost by only 799 votes in Damoh, while NOTA received 1,299 votes. MoS health, Sharad Jain who was contesting from Jabalpur North, lost by just 578 votes while NOTA bagged 1,209 votes. In Burhanpur, NOTA scored around 5,700 votes while Archana Chitnis-minister for women and child development lost by 5,120 votes.

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How Ajit Jogi ensured Congress’ surprise victory in Chhattisgarh

Arti Ghargi

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While Ajit Jogi party pulled some votes from Congress fold, Congress pulled more votes from BJP’s.

“Congress seems to be losing Chhattisgarh once again,” said the anchor on one of the prominent news channel waving his hands across the screen behind him. The exit poll numbers glowing on the screen stated what every pollster believed- Congress stands no chance in Chhattisgarh. There wasn’t even remote possibility. That was December 7. Little did they know, the same Chhattisgarh they struck off Congress’ game would be the first state to giving Congress reasons of celebrations four days later.

Jaws dropped, the numbers flipped and pollsters were left baffled when the numbers started rolling in on December 11. The early trends showed Congress taking a quick lead over the incumbent BJP. Many believed that by noon, the numbers would stagnate giving a clear picture. One of the pollsters sitting on the panel in another news channel’s discussion around election results, casually but rather confidently said, “These are initial numbers and it can change as the more rounds of counting get over.” He then went on to list the reasons why BJP would retain the state. Much to his surprise, the numbers in Congress’ favour only surged while the leads on BJP’s numbers tally plunged as the day proceeded. By 3 PM it was pretty clear that BJP which was ruling the state of Chhattisgarh for the past 15 years, had lost. Not only did the BJP lose the election but also performed poorly in terms of seat share.

The “expect the unexpected” scenario in Chhattisgarh brought some positive news to Congress camp. The Congress state unit which seemed to be staring at the defeat for the fourth consecutive term a few months ago, enthused by the astounding numbers went into celebratory mode.

As much as this victory throws a surprise, it also begs us many questions. How did BJP lose despite the state performing well on economic indicators under the Raman Singh government? How did Congress win proving the exit polls wrong? And lastly, didn’t the Ajit Jogi factor work? Well, let us explain what went wrong for BJP and what went right for Congress in Chhattisgarh one by one.

Anti-Incumbency against BJP:

When Chhattisgarh entered the phase of Election Campaigning, the BJP knew that it will have to battle the anti-incumbency of several years. Despite this realization, the Raman Singh government was quite sure of its victory in the state. The BJP wove its entire campaign around the goodwill of Dr Raman Singh, 66- a leader cut in the mould of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s era who enjoys a corruption-free and untainted image across party lines. So much so that even some of the Congress leaders behind the door accept that the party doesn’t have any leader of the stature of Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh. Apart from Raman Singh’s personal goodwill, BJP also invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s special connection with the state to woo the voters.

Raman Singh

However, even these narratives were not able to overshadow the discontent among masses against the lowest-rung officers or the ‘Sarkari Babus’. The BJP suffered a major backlash from the tribal and Dalit voters. The amendment to the SC/ST acts provoked country-wide protests. According to a report by the government of India, at least 34% are Scheduled Tribes and 12% are Scheduled Castes. The tribal who constitute nearly 34% of the state’s population was clearly angry with the BJP because of land grab by the government for industrial purpose and the government’s failure to implement the PESA Act. The general feeling on the ground was, the benefits of the schemes introduced by the government never reached the masses.

The people wanted ‘Parivartan’ and it is the major reason why despite having Chhattisgarh’s stalwart leader on its side, BJP received a drubbing.

 

How did Congress win?

More people seemed shocked at Congress managing a crystal-clear majority rather than BJP failing and rightly so. Congress did not have any leader who matched up to Raman Singh’s stature, its entire leadership was wiped in a Naxal attack and Ajit Jogi who was considered master strategist had left the Congress fold to form his own party. These factors were expected to affect the elections results as anticipated in the exit polls results.

Bhupesh Baghel

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However, all the factors that were expected to go against Congress might have brought the party fortunes. Congress’ campaign wasn’t built around a single personality, rather was a combination of abilities of multi-rung leaders from across various communities. Putting foot on the ground and extensive door-to-door campaigning helped in networking with the masses. The farm loan waiver and MSP and employment generation seem to be the biggest drawer of masses to the Congress.

 

The Ajit Jogi Factor:

Ajit Jogi, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh and popular among the Satnami community left the Congress fold and established his own own party. In the run-up to Assembly election, his party even tied up with Mayawati’s BSP. This alliance was expected to hurt the Congress’ prospect in the state. However, his new party, Janata Congress ended up getting only five seats with 7.6% vote share.

This happened majorly because, instead of cutting Congress’ votes, Jogi’s party ensured that BJP’s voter base shifts to Congress. Apart from SC and ST, OBC’s are the dominant electoral community in Chhattisgarh comprising 50% of the population. OBC community includes Kurmis and Sahus which have had a traditional rivalry with the Satnami community. Over the years, the BJP garnered this OBC base while Ajit Jogi ensured Satnami community votes for Congress. But, the Jogi factor was also the reason why OBCs turned their back towards Congress. With Ajit Jogi now out of the Congress, Satnami votes went with Janata Congress, however, it led to significant OBC votes from BJP camp shifting to Congress.

Ajit Jogi

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If we look at the numbers, in the 2013 Assembly elections, Bharatiya Janata Party won 49 seats claiming the CM post while Indian National Congress won 39 seats. The difference of vote share between Congress and BJP was even less than 1%. This gap was easy to bridge for the Congress with Jogi out of the picture.

The vote shares clearly spell out the phenomenon. While Congress managed to increase its vote share by just 3% the seats it drew were more. On the other hand, BJP’s vote share dropped 33%. Which means, while Ajit Jogi’s party pulled some votes from Congress fold, Congress pulled more votes from BJP’s.

Well, now the real challenge in front of the Congress party is to choose a Chief Minister candidate.

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Kerala By-polls: Kerala floods took a center-stage over Sabarimala issue

Arti Ghargi

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Though, the number of seats put BJP at the bottom of the race, come to think of it, the real loser here is the Congress-led UDF. The Congress and its allies bagged 11 wards in Kerala bypolls as against the 16 they held earlier.

The results of the by-polls held in Kerala have come as a shocker to everyone, but the ruling Left government. On November 30, by-polls were held in 39 local bodies including 27 panchayat wards, five block panchayat wards, six municipality wards and one corporation ward. The CPI(M)-led LDF won a majority of the seats i.e. 21 seats. Whereas, the Congress-led UDF bagged 12 seats. The BJP, which was eyeing on mighty political dividends after the recent Sabarimala protest that rocked the state, however, was limited to only two seats.

Now, we do realize that the by-polls held in just 39 seats cannot spell out the mood of the entire state but the elections do hold a significance as it was for the first time after the Sabarimala controversy the state was going for polling. Those who have closely followed the recent political developments in the state can bear the testimony of the fact that it was probably rare in Kerala that the Hindu anger erupted at such a large scale.

sabarimala

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For the saffron party BJP, which has been trying to create a base in the coastal state, Sabarimala issue ticked every box. It was related to Hindus and even led to unprecedented widespread outrage. The party sensing the “Golden opportunity” launched aggressive protests targeting the left-led government. Even then, it did not turn into expected political dividends.

On the contrary, the CPI(M) which had come under fire from the majority of the Hindu society over the implementation of Supreme Court order of allowing women in Sabarimala, expected an electoral backlash. However, the party ended up winning the majority of the seats.

Let us first check the resulting outcome:

Among all the 39 wards, the BJP has increased vote share only in a few of them. It has lost its sitting ward at Parappukkara in Thrissur district to the Left. Now, Thrissur is where the BJP is hoping for a significant gain in vote share in the Lok Sabha elections. BJP could get only 19 votes in two wards in Pathanamthitta district, where the temple is located. The party candidate got just 12 votes in the Palakkad ward of the Pandalam municipality, which has been the epicentre of the Sabarimala protests. the BJP candidate secured only seven votes in the Kulasekharapatnam ward.

Though, the number of seats put BJP at the bottom of the race, come to think of it, the real loser here is the Congress-led UDF. The Congress and its allies bagged 11 wards in Kerala bypolls as against the 16 they held earlier. The tally has now come down to 11.

Kerala

The LDF wrested five seats from the UDF and one from the BJP (Parappukkara in Thrissur district). The two seats the BJP won were both earlier held by the UDF.

If we compare the votes polled for the parties, BJP’s votes came down from 11,118 to 9869 whereas UDF’s vote came down from 26,722 to 26,092. Though UDF’s vote difference is less than that of BJP, the party lost 5 seats.

What could have been the possible reason for it?

The credit of LDF’s win goes to the BJP. As observed in 2016 assembly elections too, as the majority shifted to BJP, the minorities in the state shifted to LDF. This has taken away UDF’s vote bank which is based upon both the majority Hindus and other minority communities.

As the polarization in the state peaks, a significant part of Hindu votes backing the UDF has shifted to BJP. While a portion of the minority has leaned towards the left.

Kerala

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For the left after Sabarimala, the polls were a tough task but the party sailed through it. Though it would be too early for BJP to score major victories in the state, if the trend continues, the BJP may soon replace Congress as the main opposition party in the state. Which is not a small achievement for the marginalized party.

As for Kerala’s voter population, the floods and state’s well-handling of the disaster made the main point of contention than Sabarimala.

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