Tamil Nadu

Narendra Modi and his love for things Tamizhan

These days, it would seen, Narendra Modi is not leaving an opportunity to show his love for the Tamil language. Last week, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, the Prime minister quoted Tamil poet Kaniyan Pungundranar to say “yaadum oore, yaavarum kelir” (For us, all towns are one and all the people are ours). And during his visit to Chennai on Monday, Modi expanded on the reaction he received to quoting what was written 3000 years ago.

“During my USA trip, when I told the world that Tamil is the world’s most ancient language, it became a talking point and was widely reported in the media there,” he said at the reception that was organised by the Tamil Nadu BJP at the Chennai airport. 

The love for all things Tamizhan did not end there. 

“We are in Tamil Nadu which has a special distinction as it is home to the oldest language in the world and is also home to one of the newest languages in India – the IIT-Madras lingo,” the PM said in a lighter vein at the convocation at IIT Madras where he was the chief guest. 

He moved to things culinary at the India-Singapore Hackathon, where he spoke of his fondness for Chennai’s breakfast of “idli, dosa and vada”. 

“The hospitality offered by Chennai is extraordinary in its warmth,” he said. 

Are these just a few random instances of a Vanakkam here, a Vanakkam there or is there a method to Modi’s sudden love for Tamil? While per se, it is an extremely fine gesture to see the PM celebrating Tamil and seen to be reveling in it, it would be underestimating Modi’s extremely sharp political antennae if he is not turning on the charm quotient also as a deep political move, to mend hearts and minds, an outreach of sorts.

Modi would be aware of the sharp public reaction from Tamil Nadu to what Union Home minister and BJP president Amit Shah was quoted to have said on Hindi Day. He would be aware of how sensitive people of Tamil Nadu are when it comes to any decision that is seen to devalue the Tamil language. He would also be aware of the BJP’s image of being a Hindi belt party. Which is why the PM is going out of his way to express his appreciation for things Tamil and playing the Tamil pride card. And in such matters, language and food are the best way to start a conversation. 

What Modi is doing essentially is to recognise the primacy of Tamil and joining the Tamils in celebrating it. By quoting Kaniyan Pungundranar on the biggest world forum, Modi is underlining that he is as proud of the language as any Tamilian is. 

Will this be enough? 

Given the trust deficit vis-a-vis the BJP, that reflected in a tally of 1/39 for the NDA in the Lok Sabha elections from Tamil Nadu, it will be tough ask. But till there is a meeting of hearts, Modi is unlikely to give up. Tamil Nadu along withBengal and Kerala are like the final frontier for the BJP. 

So bring in the idli-dosa and the sambar.

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