Want TN to produce a prime minister: BJP Secy C T Ravi

We want Tamil Nadu to produce a prime minister, says BJP national general secretary C T Ravi

When asked about the potential rise of Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth in Tamil Nadu politics, he said that personality worship is more in TN than in other states

BJP national General Secretary C T Ravi. Credit: DH Photo

BJP national general secretary C T Ravi, a Hindutva firebrand, is in charge of the party’s affairs in Tamil Nadu, a state where the saffron party is itching to make a mark in next year’s elections. Ravi tells Bharath Joshi how things are shaping up. Excerpts: 

What is your understanding of Tamil Nadu politics from the BJP’s lens?

Since 1967, power has switched between AIADMK and DMK. For the first time, there’s a (leadership) vacuum in both parties. There are 30% linguistic minorities - Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Saurashtrians among others who prioritize national interests. We’re yet to get into power politics, but activities are BJP-centric. Earlier, the BJP was kept out, but that’s not the case now. For Tamil Nadu’s development, the Centre has given 5.19 lakh crore whose beneficiaries need to be converted as voters. 

Tamil Nadu is big on ‘land’ and ‘language’ as against the BJP’s Hindutva narrative and its image of being a Hindi party. 

Ours is a nationalist party. Is there a nation without Tamil Nadu? Ours is a party that protects culture. The NEP has stressed on all languages. Now, there’s a chance to learn Tamil outside Tamil Nadu. PM Modi has, on various platforms, remembered Thiruvalluvar and Kamba Ramayanam. It was our government that supported Jallikattu. Also, the Chinese premier was taken to Mahabalipuram whose history goes back to 4,000 years as opposed to 400 years of the Taj Mahal. Tamil Nadu’s emblem is that of a temple, but most people who’ve ruled the state have no respect for God. We’re fighting against this. 

What is the BJP doing organizationally? 

We’ve asked our workers to win their booths, and the state will be won automatically. There are 68,000 booths and we’ve formed committees in 45,000 of them. We have ‘A’ category Navaratna booths and ‘B’ category Pancharatna booths. Two tasks have been assigned: Identify issues that influence voters and identify influential voters. There’s a receptive mood. 

But, Tamil Nadu thrives on regional parties. 

Things can change if we can provide leadership that inspires confidence. What happened to the BJP in Karnataka in the 1990s I’m now seeing in Tamil Nadu. At one point, Tamil Nadu had people who gave national leadership. After the Dravidian movement started, national leaders stopped. Too much of regionalism will do that. We want Tamil Nadu to produce a PM. That’s the politics we want for Tamil Nadu. Now, there are people using Tamil Nadu’s name only for self-interest, family and corruption.

Language is often cited as your weak area. How are you managing with Tamil? 

No doubt, language is important. I can speak with emotions only in my language. In most meetings, I’m asked to speak in Kannada with the help of translators. It’s only when I speak in Kannada that I get responses from the crowd. They say they understand half of what I say. Even during personal conversations, I’m trying to pick up Tamil in a simple way: Sapadaacha? Ukkarango and so on.

How do you see Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan? 

The worship of individuals is more in Tamil Nadu than in any other state. I won’t comment on them. It’s up to the people. We’re confident that the model we followed in other states will give us success in Tamil Nadu also. 

If the BJP wins at least 5-10 seats, would that be a job well done?

We’ll be satisfied only when we can influence Tamil Nadu’s people. We need to take the first steps in any journey. In the late 1960s, it was a big deal when we won the Udupi municipality under V S Acharya. Every small win will lead to bigger ones.