BJP drags Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar into a row

Sea waves break against the 133-ft tall Thiruvalluvar statue in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. (PTI Photo)

Tamil saint and poet Thiruvalluvar has been dragged into a political controversy after the Tamil Nadu BJP shared a picture of him in a saffron robe on Twitter to commemorate celebrations of Tamil Nadu formation day on November 1.

The picture used by the Twitter handle of the state BJP was distinctly different from the one that is generally used by Tamil scholars and government – he is usually attired in a white robe. But the picture shared by the BJP showed him wearing a saffron-colour robe and his forehead smeared with vibudhi, the sacred ash worn by Hindus, inviting accusations that the ruling party at the Centre was “saffronising” and “appropriating” Tamil icons.

The Twitter account of Tamil Nadu BJP, @BJP4TamilNadu, tweeted the picture along with that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 1 by praising Tamil language and cultural heritage of the state.

Thirukkural, penned by Thiruvalluvar, offers remedy or a piece of advice for every issue that the modern world encounters and Modi has quoted from this very fine piece of Tamil literature more than once. The prime minister also released a book on Thirukkural in Bangkok on Saturday as part of his continued efforts to reach out to the Tamil constituency.  

The Tamil Twitter that is known for trending anti-BJP stuff swung into action and has been trending #BJPInsultsThiruvalluvar since Saturday evening with the hundreds of accounts accusing the BJP of trying to distort history and appropriate Tamil icons.

‘Insult to Tamil language’

Opposition Leader and DMK President M K Stalin too jumped on the bandwagon on Sunday evening by asking the BJP to stop “giving hues” to Thiruvalluvar and instead learn from his teachings.

“It is an insult for Tamil language that the BJP is trying to appropriate Thiruvalluvar for its political agenda. Instead of giving hues, try and reform yourselves by reading Thirukkural,” Stalin said in a post on his Twitter page.

The hashtag #BJPInsultsThiruvalluvar trended on Sunday too, but the BJP also came with its own defence.

The party says the original picture of Thiruvalluvar portrayed him in a saffron robe and it was the DMK government in 1970s that replaced it with white robe.

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