Millennium Post

Riding on Tamil pride

Riding on Tamil pride
For astute Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) patriarch Karunanidhi, who turned 89 on June 3, a wishful scenario to regain lost glory, after the humiliating loss of power in 2011 to arch-rival Jayalalithaa, is through continued alliance with the Congress for a rejuvenated UPA-III in 2014. This would help DMK retain its decisive voice in policy-making at the Centre and, more importantly, frustrate the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's ambitions in New Delhi.

Two signals Karunanidhi has clearly given are DMK’s total support to the Congress nominee in the Presidential contest on 19 July, and his pronounced antipathy to 'communal forces' which he sees in any alternative front, led by BJP. For the Congress, badly mauled in state elections in the North and facing a rout in Andhra Pradesh, its southern fortress hitherto, there is no option but to work in tandem with the DMK 'elder statesman' in further strengthening UPA in southern India.

That is how both would seek to containing the challenge that the AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa may pose with her own plans for the next Lok Sabha. Even if the DMK-Congress alliance in Tamil Nadu cannot repeat the 2004 miracle of bagging all 40 seats in Lok Sabha, which is now the dream of AIADMK leader, they would hope to emerge stronger than in the last election (2009).

As a veteran who faced political battles over five decades, Karunanidhi has overcome the initial shocks from Jayalalithaa's stunning victory in the Assembly election last year and is trying to leave no stone unturned to make Tamil Nadu ideologically a Dravidian state. There would be more Karunanidhis to emerge after him to carry on the struggle to safeguard the interests of Tamils in their own state, he declares.

Through his writings in the party organ, wit and political wisdom, Karunanidhi compels attention thereby hoping to dispel any notions in public mind of DMK having become a spent force as well as to inspire partymen to look to the future with hope and confidence to stage a comeback to governance of the state in 2016.

The current situation hardly enables Karunanidhi to retire and hand over leadership to any of his two warring sons - one-time favourite M K Stalin, who worked under his father as Deputy Chief Minister (2006-11) or his elder brother M K Alagiri, union minister of fertilisers, who dominated the southern districts but whose fortress was also recently breached by Stalin.

Apparently keeping good health and in command of his faculties, Karunanidhi expects to lead the next electoral battle and meanwhile he has any number of causes dear to Tamils to champion. Jayalalithaa's widely publicised accomplishments in the first year of AIADMK return to power on a wide front - social welfare, economic development plans and fiscal control - do not leave much space for Karunanidhi to attack her administration.

At the same time, Karunanidhi is quick to pick up areas where his tirades against the AIADMK leader sound credible, especially the tax burdens in thousands of crores she has imposed on the people in the first year itself to pay for all the welfare schemes or in the matter of tackling the acute power shortage in the State. He also led the state-wide protests against the recent hike in petrol price and called on UPA leadership for a roll back.

Karunanidhi readily joined the chorus with other state-level Dravidian groups like MDMK of Vaiko and PMK of Ramadoss demanding the removal of a cartoon in NCERT textbook depicting the 1965 anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu which, the DMK leader contended, was 'ridiculing' an agitation and it was bound to 'infuriate Tamils'. Belatedly though, given the sensitivity of the issue, Jayalalithaa also joined the call for deletion of the cartoon which 'offend sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu'.

NCERT advisers have pointed out that the cartoon was not aimed at denigrating the anti-Hindi agitation of the 1960s, as the text gave due recognition to the Dravidian movement and indeed held it up as a good example of 'compatibility of regionalism and nationalism'. The Education Ministry has already appointed a committee to review the social and political science text books of classes 9-12 and identify 'educationally inappropriate' material in those books.

The cartoon issue has given a handle for the competing state-level Dravidian groups, in the manner of a race to the bottom, to revive anti-Hindi agitation asserting Hindi cannot be the national language but only official language and also exert pressure for support to the creation of Eelam (homeland) for the Sri Lankan Tamils. (IPA)
S Sethuraman

S Sethuraman

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