BJP’s Down South Push: The Sengol Story


New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the new parliament building in Delhi on Sunday and receive the historic Sengol (sceptre) that symbolizes the transfer of power from the British, which was originally received by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947.

This event is seen as a significant political outreach to the people of Tamil Nadu, particularly aimed at strengthening the BJP’s prospects in the upcoming 2024 national elections.

The Sengol will be presented to Prime Minister Modi by 24 adheenam (mutt) heads of Tamil Nadu, representing the Shaivite sects known for their Tamil forms of worship and rituals. The BJP has been actively supporting the demands of these adheenams in recent years, particularly in relation to their traditional practices being hindered by the DMK government.

The party has also been organizing events like the Kashi-Tamil Sangamam to emphasize the cultural connections between North and South India, with a focus on Tamil saints and spiritualism.

PM Modi has frequently incorporated Tamil language and culture into his speeches, showcasing his admiration for the Tamil classic Thirukkural, drawing inspiration from Tamil poet Subramania Bharati, and quoting a three-thousand-year-old Tamil verse during his address at the UN general assembly. This concerted effort to engage with Tamil Nadu and the southern states is aimed at consolidating the BJP’s electoral prospects.

The Sengol itself has historical significance, as it represents the transfer of power during the Sangam era and the Chola period. The Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam, one of the oldest Shaivite mutts in India, commissioned the Sengol after a suggestion by C Rajagopalachari to Jawaharlal Nehru. While there are differing opinions on the relevance of such a symbol in a democracy, supporters argue that it signifies cultural unity between North and South India and reiterates the deep-rooted traditions and devotion of Tamil Nadu.

Critics, on the other hand, question the need for a sceptre in a democratic setup and argue that such practices reinforce caste divisions. However, proponents argue that the Sengol serves as a reminder to rulers of their responsibilities towards the people and that democracy allows for questioning and engagement.

The retrieval and presentation of the Sengol is seen as a significant step by the BJP to establish its identity and appeal to the people of Tamil Nadu. By honoring Tamil traditions and customs, the party aims to tap into the growing interest among the non-Periyarist, non-Brahmin, nationalist individuals who possess a strong and defiant Hindu religiosity. The BJP’s focus on local gods and customs is viewed as an attempt to make Tamil Nadu residents proud of their heritage and create a distinct political space for the party in the state.

Overall, the BJP’s engagement with Tamil Nadu and the presentation of the Sengol align with its political motives of expanding its presence in southern states and gaining electoral advantage in the upcoming national elections.

The party aims to emphasize cultural unity while simultaneously appealing to the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu through their religious and cultural practices.

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