Chennai, Sept. 1: M. Karunanidhi has got his party to disown Ganesh Chaturthi greetings posted on son M.K. Stalin’s Facebook page, the episode reflecting crosscurrents in the family over the DMK’s vaunted “rationalist” traditions.
While the party blamed the “overenthusiastic managers” of Stalin’s Facebook account for the ideological faux pas, insiders claimed Stalin’s son-in-law Sabarish had posted the greetings with his father-in-law’s approval.
“The idea was to dilute the DMK’s anti-Hindu image. Many of Stalin’s political moves are orchestrated by Sabarish these days,” an MLA said.
The greetings had appeared on Friday. Since they ran counter to the Dravidian party’s official stand of not issuing greetings during Hindu festivals, Karunanidhi got the DMK to issue a statement yesterday distancing Stalin from the move.
Sources said the DMK patriarch had told some of his confidants how unhappy he was at Sabarish’s growing influence over Stalin and hoped his son would be wiser from this experience.
Sabarish, who heads an IT company and handles Stalin’s website and social media accounts, could not be contacted for his comments.
Stalin’s supporters, who want to pitch him as the chief ministerial candidate for the 2016 Assembly elections, however, argue that the DMK has unnecessarily antagonised the Hindu vote bank by overplaying the rationalist hand.
“And the Lok Sabha elections (where the party drew a blank) proved we are not getting the Muslim or Christian vote, either,” a party official said.
Sources said Stalin had received feedback during his recent tours of the state that the new generations of voters from the intermediate castes were repulsed by what they saw as the DMK’s “anti-Hindu” stand.
“He felt it was time to shed the ideological baggage of his father, and what better day to start than on Vinayaka (Ganesh) Chaturthi?” a party senior said.
Critics see Karunanidhi’s brand of “rationalism” as inconsistent in that he has been known to greet Muslims and Christians during Ramazan and Christmas. He has also been accused of disparaging Hindu gods and religious practices.
At the height of the 2007-08 movement to preserve the so-called Ram Setu — a chain of limestone shoals across a portion of the Palk Strait — he had ridiculed the idea by making a reference to engineering education.
“For Karunanidhi, rationalism stops at Hindu-bashing...” said Cho Ramaswamy, editor of the Tamil weekly Thuglak. “Would he make similar jokes about Muslim or Christian beliefs?”
There’s always been a gap between what Karunanidhi preaches and what the apolitical members of his family practise. His wives Dayalu and Rajathi, daughter Selvi, and daughters-in-law Durga Stalin and Kanthi Alagiri are known temple hoppers.
Karunanidhi has defended himself saying he does not impose his views on others. “He did frown on temple visits by family members but no one listened,” a party senior said.
Questions have also been asked on the genuineness of his supporters’ “rationalistic” beliefs.
Many DMK bigwigs who get their children married the “rationalist” way — by simply tying a thaali (mangalsutra) in Karunanidhi’s presence —do so after having already got them married the traditional way.
“If they are really ‘rationalistic’, why do they conduct these marriages on auspicious days and not on a Tuesday or a Saturday during the inauspicious rahu kaalam?” asked Ramagopalan, leader of the Hindu Munnani.
Even Kalaignar TV, owned by Karunanidhi’s family, faithfully organises special telecasts during Hindu festivals like Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi and the Tamil New Year under the garb of “holiday specials”.
Karunanidhi’s political rival, chief minister Jayalalithaa, openly visits temples and participates in pujas while also attending iftars during Ramazan and Christmas celebrations.
Her government provides financial support to pilgrims travelling to Mecca, Bethlehem and Hindu shrines outside Tamil Nadu.