BJP prefers to slowly infiltrate regional parties and dilute their vote bank, says VCK president Thol. Thirumavalavan

Updated - March 28, 2024 07:21 pm IST

Published - March 22, 2024 09:40 pm IST - CHENNAI

Thol Thirumavalavan

Thol Thirumavalavan | Photo Credit: RAGHUNATHAN SR

Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi president Thol. Thirumavalavan on Friday charged that the BJP’s brand of politics was to slowly infiltrate into regional parties by aligning with them and dilute their vote bank to position themselves as a stronger contender. In a freewheeling interaction with journalists at The Hindu office in Chennai, he articulated on various issues including the position that Dalits across India cannot be consolidated based on their caste as they want to annihilate their caste identity. Excerpts:

What are the prospects of the opposition-led INDIA bloc in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, both in Tamil Nadu and National level?

At the national level, the 2024 elections are not just a normal election. All the opposition leaders across India have taken it seriously and come together setting aside their differences. The INDIA bloc was not formed under the leadership of one national party. Even though Congress and Left parties are part of it, the regional parties played a crucial role in the formation of the INDIA bloc. The objective of this bloc is to unseat the BJP from power. Political parties in the alliance have a common understanding that there will be no Prime Ministerial face ahead of results and there is no necessity for it. The regional parties will ensure the defeat of the BJP in their States. The Prime Minister candidate will be decided post-poll. In Tamil Nadu, the INDIA bloc will win all the seats. The alliance has been intact since 2018. The 2019 seat-sharing formula continued in 2024 as well. Earlier, the AIADMK, BJP, and PMK were together and recently they parted ways. The PMK joined hands with the BJP at the last minute and the AIADMK has been left isolated with some parties which do not have a proven vote bank.

But the BJP has set a target of 400 seats and many opinion polls also favour them. With the consecration of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, it seems a Hindu revivalism has come in northern States and the BJP is trying to utilise it, what is your opinion?

The BJP has been using such slogans and doing politics for many years. But the BJP leaders never spoke about what they achieved out of it. I feel the Hindus have understood the political game of using the religious sentiments of the BJP and RSS. Awareness among Hindus has increased to distinguish the politics of the BJP and religion. Their agenda will not work in south India. The consecration of Ram Mandir may create an impact in four or five northern States.

You have been talking about ideological alignment, which is essential in coalition politics. But beyond electoral politics, what is your relationship with the DMK?

We are neither completely defending the DMK, nor playing the role of opposition. Our relationship with DMK is issue-based. In the last three years, the VCK has organised more than 10 protests in many parts of the State, despite crackdowns by the police, condemning caste-based violence and honour killing. Even for the Vengaivayal issue (where human refuse was mixed in an overhead water tank in a Dalit hamlet), we organised a protest within three days. We stood by the people and protested against the government on several issues. Being a member of the vigilance panel, I have pointed out many atrocities committed against Dalits, women and honour killings. The VCK never thought that our genuine disagreement on some issues would bring a rift in the alliance. We are addressing the issues faced by the people.

You said the AIADMK is left isolated. Can it be inferred that the BJP is growing in the State?

It is one of the action plans of the BJP. It enters into any State by aligning with one of the major regional parties and slowly infiltrates and dilutes the party. The BJP has been playing it as a strategy to replace the regional party and place itself in second position. I have been pointing out to the AIADMK in a friendly manner that if they travel along with the BJP in the long term, their party base will be diluted. I welcomed the decision of AIADMK to snap ties with the BJP when the national party’s State president Annamalai passed some critical remarks about C.N. Annadurai and J. Jayalalithaa. However, it is not a vital reason for the AIADMK to come out of the alliance. We don’t know whether the AIADMK came out of the alliance with the BJP or the latter created a situation for them to pull out. I feel it is the strategy of the BJP to isolate AIADMK and replace them in the second position in the next election. 

Do you think that the BJP will come to second position in 2026?

The BJP aims to do so but the vote bank of the AIADMK remains strong. Even though Edappadi K. Palaniswami is not a charismatic leader like M.G.R and Jayalalithaa, the party managed to win more than 60 Assembly seats. Some leaders may have left the party but their vote bank remains intact. We have to see in this election whether AIADMK retains the vote bank or shifts to any other side.

Will the AIADMK join hands with the BJP after the elections?

It depends on the election results. If they win some seats, they may go with the BJP.

The level of Dalit unity envisaged by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar has not happened yet. What can be done to unite Dalits? Has Dalit consolidation happened in Tamil Nadu?

Throughout India, the caste Hindus are polarised and consolidated based on their castes, whether it is OBC or the forward community. Casteism is being taught to them in their day-to-day life. Dalits are those who want to renounce their caste identity. Only the Dalits and followers of Ambedkar in India have been advocating for the annihilation of caste. Other sections of society have no agenda to eradicate caste. Dalits will never consolidate based on caste, because they want to annihilate the caste identity. Dalits have accepted leaders such as Gandhi, Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Jagjivan Ram, without seeing their castes. But caste Hindus have a caste-based psychology to follow a leader. It was only Kanshi Ram in Uttar Pradesh who consolidated not based on the Dalit identity but all the Bahujans such as OBCs, SC, STs and Minorities. There is nothing as such Dalit unity. But what is required is a “politicised rise” for Dalits. There is nothing called caste-based unity, it is just ideology-based unity. Dalit unity is not about VCK joining hands with Puthiya Thamizhagam or Devendra Kula Vellalars, Adi Dravidars and Arunthathiyars coming together. Dalit unity is about rising with ideological consensus. Dalits should have more awareness about power.

Many political parties have benefitted by getting funds through electoral bonds from various companies. But why do you single out the BJP? 

The opportunity and space was created by the BJP by legalising electoral bonds. Black money can be converted into white through these bonds. The Supreme Court has pointed out that it is legally wrong.

Do you think that regional parties coming together to form a government at the Centre if the INDIA block is voted to power, will work?

A stable government with more majority is likely to become an authoritarian or a fascist regime. India is a pluralistic country and to keep it alive we should have a democratic government instead of a stable government. Stable but authoritarian governments may dissolve the governments led by the opposition in the States. It will be meaningless for a parliamentary democracy.

Thol. Thirumavalavan on AIADMK’s isolation, electoral bonds, Dalit unity
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