A separate religion demand from BJP’s lone seat in Tamil Nadu

Press Trust of India Nagercoil (Tamil Nadu) | Updated on March 21, 2019

File photo of Balaprajapathi Adigalar (left) with BJP leader LK Advani   -  THE HINDU

The head of “Ayya Vazhi”, a reformist spiritual sect that has a significant following in southern Tamil Nadu, has raised the demand for separate religion status ahead of Lok Sabha polls.

Since a chunk of Hindu Nadars, who form the core of Ayya Vazhi, have traditionally supported the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in elections here, there is speculation if this stand of the sect could affect the saffron party’s electoral prospects in Kanyakumari, the sole Lok Sabha constituency it won in Tamil Nadu in 2014.

Ayya Vazhi has a significant following, especially in the southern districts of Kanyakumari, Tuticorin and Tirunelveli.

The head of the sect, Balaprajapathi Adigalar, said their demand for a separate religion was only to guard the “unique nature” of their denomination.

“How can we lose our uniqueness? We are firm on our demand. It is our appeal to the parties that they accept our demand,” he said.

The Ayya Vazhi chief said they do not want “intervention” from the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR& CE) Department. He said the devotees were “only making spiritual services while the department wanted to administer other affairs” at Swamithope, the sect’s principal place of worship.

Adigalar claimed even senior BJP leader and Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan had assured support to protect the uniqueness of the denomination and “ward off intervention” from the HR&CE department.

However, G Karikolraj, general secretary, Nadar Mahajana Sangam, said: “It is the leadership which is making this demand. The common Hindu Nadars of Kanyakumari district are not very keen about it.”

Tamil Nadu Congress Committee President K S Alagiri said their demand will be taken up with the high command, but declined to elaborate further.

BJP influence in region

Hindutva ideologue B R Gauthaman claimed that this demand will have “zero impact” among the electorate.

“Adigalar will be singled out by the community for making this demand since Ayya Vazhi is rooted in Hindu ideals and there are umpteen references to Hindu deities in the sacred text Akilathirattu,” the Right-wing activist said.

Citing poll data, he said in the 1984 elections, independent candidate V Balachandran, supported by Hindu Munnani (a Sangh Parivar outfit) was elected by the Assembly.

“During those days too, Adigalar was not on our side,” he said, and added that after 1984 elections too, poll data reveals the BJP’s significant hold in Kanyakumari district. Even in the 1996 Assembly election, when the DMK combine had a landslide win in the wake of a popular wave against late J Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu, BJP candidate C Velayuthan won in Padmanabhapuram in Kanyakumari, defeating Adigalar’s brother and DMK nominee Bala Janathipathi, he recalled.

Opposing the demand, Hindu Makkal Katchi chief Arjun Sampath said it cannot swing the decision of the electorate.

Hindu Tamizhar Katchi leader Rama Ravikumar concurred, saying it is a “non-issue”.

Published on March 21, 2019

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