V BALASUBRAMANIAN, TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2006 12:16:37 AM]
CHENNAI: Dravidian hardliners in the good old days were sworn atheists. They had no faith in gods, goddesses, epics, mythological characters and rituals. It was this atheism that is believed to have been the focal point of the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu.
Cut back to the cut-throat 2006 Assembly elections. The same hardliners are giving the competent Harikatha exponents a run for their money in their winning narration of tales from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Epic characters like Baali, Sugreev, Vibheeshan, Shakuni, Karna, Arjun and Dronacharya and instances from the Mahabharata prominently figure in the fiery speeches of DMK chief M Karunanidhi and MDMK chief Vaiko, who has defected to AIADMK camp.
While AIADMK’s former speaker K Kalimuthu describes DMK and Karunanidhi as the Duryodhan camp in which Vaiko was caught like Karna once, Vaiko, in his speeches, likens the election to Kurukshetra battle and the fight between Arjun (himself) and Dronacharya (Karunanidhi).
This was well-received among the cadres since Vaiko as a ‘Shishya’ is considered a good match to take on his political “mentor”.
On his party, DMK chief Kaurnanidhi, in reply to a query on why Vaiko was rewarded with positions for 18 years, said that Vaiko had turned ‘Shakuni’ of the Mahabharata.
In another instance, Mr Karunanidhi described Vaiko as Sugreev in the Ramayana who assumed throne betraying his brother Baali with the help of Rama. Vaiko is also identified with Vibheeshan who crossed over to Rama’s side at a critical juncture.
When asked about such liberal references to the religious epics by political leaders, who proclaim to be atheists, Congress leader Kumari Ananthan said: "They (leaders) make use of it because people are aware of these things.
They give different interpretations and interpret anything on any line." Political observers said it is the mastery of these leaders over the epics that help them to quote incidents in the election time.
Harikatha exponent Viji Murali had an interesting view on the issue: "Epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are well known. Therefore, politicians find it convenient to convey their messages more effectively.
However, ironically, they select mainly the negative characters from the epics. instead of highlighting the virtues of positive characters."