[lg policy] Will a political vacuum fuel growing anger in Tamil Nadu?

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sat Aug 11 12:03:55 EDT 2018


 Will a political vacuum fuel growing anger in Tamil Nadu?The era of social
justice and self-respect, Karunanidhi and his fellow travellers of the
Dravidian rule—Anna, MGR and Jayalalithaa, who now share the same space in
the hall of memories at the Anna Square on the Marina beach— shaped and
set, now seems over
Last Published: Fri, Aug 10 2018. 02 35 PM IST
<feedback at livemint.com?subject=Will a political vacuum fuel growing anger
in Tamil Nadu?>Aazhi Senthilnathan
<https://www.livemint.com/Search/Link/Author/Aazhi Senthilnathan>
[image: People throng the streets near the Marina beach on the Bay of
Bengal coast during the funeral procession of former Tamil Nadu state chief
minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam political party chief Muthuvel
Karunanidhi in Chennai on Wednesday. Photo: AP]
People throng the streets near the Marina beach on the Bay of Bengal coast
during the funeral procession of former Tamil Nadu state chief minister and
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam political party chief Muthuvel Karunanidhi in
Chennai on Wednesday. Photo: AP

Muthuvel Karunanidhi was many things to many people. For some, he was a
doyen of Dravidian politics that stood for social justice, state autonomy
and social welfare economics. Others, however, viewed him as a smart and
sly politician who epitomized dynastic politics and corruption. His legacy
is dyed in whitish grey. The final few years have obscured some of the
great contributions he has made in his long and checkered political life.

Tamil Nadu’s economic and social success boils down to the politics of
self-respect. This idea was fashioned into political programs and social
praxis by the leading triumvirate of Dravidian politics: Periyar E.V.
Ramasamy, C.N. Annadurai and M.Karunanidhi.

The ideas which emerged from the pen of these writers and thinkers created
many of Tamil Nadu’s policies and programs which have emerged as a model
for the Indian Union: a multi-tiered reservation policy, emphasis on
state’s autonomy, language policies that empowered local tongues, a welfare
state that was financially sustainable, and more. Karunanidhi
<https://www.livemint.com/Politics/JK7OHLkMJJM0JfKDzmMr6J/Karunanidhi-The-portrait-of-an-artiste.html>famously
likened himself to a catamaran that holds people who chose to board it.
Indeed, he was a rising tide that endeavoured to lift all catamarans.

*Also read | Post Amma and Ayya: The new Tamil Nadu potboiler
<https://www.livemint.com/Politics/1S82VFwFTcBI0MhxE9awjN/Post-Amma-and-Ayya-The-new-Tamil-potboiler.html>*

Karunanidhi was a master administrator. On a typical day, he would clear a
proposal to set up a land bank for a greenfield tech park, launch a
sky-kissing Thiruvalluvar statue in Kanyakumari, okay a government order
for the upliftment of weavers, and sign an agreement for enrolling Tamil
Nadu as a member of the Unicode Consortium (a global tech body which
normally admits only countries).

Karunanidhi took his political ideas to the federal level in due course.
Karunanidhi’s proposal of amending the Constitution of India to make it
truly federal, based on the recommendations of the Rajamannar Committee, is
a well-known masterstroke in the seventies. When Karunanidhi and his mentor
Anna expressed their federalist demands, they became the self-appointed
representatives of other states too, especially the ‘non-Hindi’ states. For
example, DMK’s manifesto usually demands that all languages listed in
schedule 8 of the Constitution should be accorded official language status,
and not just Tamil.

Karunanidhi’s defiance of Indira Gandhi during the emergency period is a
part of political folklore. His relationship with the Centre wasn’t always
smooth, with his sometimes getting dismissed on flimsy grounds, but he
bounced back every time.

It was during the coalition era, after he had become the grand-head of a
big family, that Karunanidhi started to make compromises. In the aftermath
of the Eelam war in Sri Lanka and when he earned the wrath of the people
for his acts of commission or omission in scams (though the bigger
accusations fell flat in the courts), his glory days had come to a climax.

However, with Karunanidhi’s passing, the state lost its knight in shining
armor. It has lost two big guardians in less than two years (Jayalalithaa
died in 2016). For an ordinary Tamil citizen, the indirect and de facto
rule of BJP, a party that has an idea of India that Tamil Nadu could never
share, is a shocking betrayal.

The era of social justice and self-respect that Karunanidhi and his fellow
travelers of the Dravidian movement - Anna, MGR and Jayalalithaa, who now
share the same space in the hall of memories at the Anna Square on the
Marina beach – shaped and set, now seems over. The dreams that remain unmet
are in grave danger. Every other week, Tamil Nadu witnesses a new popular
protest and New Delhi is always at the receiving end. Night normally begins
once the sun has set.


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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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