“Hindustan hai desh hamara, jaan se hai humko pyaara, Hindi, Muslim Sikh Isaai, aapas mein hain bhai bhai” (India is our country and Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are all brethren.)
That’s Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, pioneer of the state’s anti-Hindi agitation, speaking the language he campaigned against many years ago - all to prove that he is secular and his comments on Lord Ram were not meant to hurt Hindu sentiments.
The DMK patriarch has called for a voluntary hunger strike in Tamil Nadu to press for the speedy implementation of the controversial Sethusamudram project. In fact, he is ready to defy the Supreme Court ban on the bandh called by him.
“I respect people's decision more than any court's verdict,” he said, addressing a meeting of party workers in Chennai.
Karunanidhi on Sunday accused state Opposition leader and AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa of hypocrisy, pointing out how her own election manifesto in 2006 had promised to implement the project.
Pushed into a corner, Congress too, finally, broke its silence.
"How will this benefit Tamil Nadu? Well, it will bring ports and industry. They're spending Rs 2,500 cr on it. Where will this money go? It'll all come back to the people of Tamil Nadu,” Congress State Secretary M Krishnaswamy said.
While Karunanidhi accused his opposition of using Ram politics with an eye on the possible mid-term polls, his own coalition partners like Thol Thirumavalavan of the Dalit Panthers of India used Ram rhetoric to woo his Dalit electorate. Many allies like Tha Pandian of the CPI used his signature rebellion to rouse his atheist Communist votebank.
But amidst the political melee, it was Union Shipping Minister TR Baalu who seemed to have had the last word.
“I promise you that the first ship will go through the Sethusamudram channel in front of your eyes,” he said.
For now, it seems the battle, assuming epic proportions, will be fought in Tamil Nadu and the response to Karunanidhi's so-called voluntary strike, which may invite contempt of court proceedings, could be an indicator of the public mood in the state.