The Tamil Nadu government will deny the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) permission to hold a "Vetri Vel Yatra" (Victorious Spear March), the Madras High Court has been informed. The event, planned from November 6 to December 6, was conceptualised in honour of Lord Muruga known for his "Vel" or spear.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami's government has cited the threat of COVID-19 and the continuing lockdown to deny the BJP permission for the event. Mr Palaniswami's AIADMK party is allied with the BJP.
The Yatra was to begin at the Thiruttani Murugan Temple in Thiruvallur district, adjacent to Chennai, and end at the Thiruchendur Murugan Temple in Thoothukudi district in the southern part of the state after touching at least four other temples in between.
December 6, the day the Vel Yatra was scheduled to end, marks the anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, which itself took place at the end of a nationwide Rath Yatra organised by the BJP under senior leader LK Advani.
The BJP had called the Vetri Vel Yatra a mission to expose what it called an "anti-Hindu" narrative and "minority appeasement" by the opposition in the state.
Multiple public interest litigations had been filed against the yatra across the state. Several political parties, too, had sought a ban on the Yatra, warning it was likely to create communal strife in Tamil Nadu. Parties opposed to the month-long event include the CPM and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) led by Thol Thirumavalavan.
The row over the BJP Yatra comes months ahead of the crucial state assembly elections that will be held in May 2021.
Referring to Mr Thirumavalavan's other recent demand for a ban on the ancient Hindu text of Manusmriti, saying it treats women as sex workers, BJP spokesperson Narayanan Thirupathi had told NDTV that these parties, including the DMK, thrive on an anti Hindu narrative.
"We want to expose their bluff through this Yatra. The DMK is behind the earlier disrespectful YouTube video on Hindu religious rendition Kandha Sashti Kavasam," Mr Thirupathi said.
While the police had arrested many for the controversial video, the DMK denied any role in it. On the other hand, many opposed the police action saying it curbed freedom of expression and rational thinking.
Politically the AIADMK government's denial of permission for the Yatra is being seen as a clear sign of its disenchantment with the BJP ahead of assembly polls. The AIADMK suffered a huge defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls which it fought in alliance with the BJP.
The Palaniswami government had been perceived to be bending backwards to please the BJP over the past few years. However, in recent months, the Tamil Nadu party had begun to harden its stance.
The state government turned down the BJP's plea for permission to hold an idol immersion rally during Vinayaka Chaturthi celebrations a few weeks ago. It also issued an executive order for 7.5% reservation in medical admission for NEET-qualified students from government schools amid a delay by the BJP-appointed state Governor to approve the bill passed by the state assembly.