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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 28

Musings on Tamil Nadu

Monday 30 June 2008, by Nikhil Chakravartty


The ouster of the Karunanidhi Ministry and the imposition of President’s Rule in Tamil Nadu can hardly be regarded as anything more than the streamlined extension of the Emergency dispensation over a State whose government by devious means tried to avoid falling in line with it.

On this score, the Governor’s report has a ring of authenticity’s though it can be legitimately asked why K.K. Shah had to take—or persuaded to take—seven long months to come to this conclusion. For the lay public, it was evident in the very first month after the twentysixth of June that Karunanidhi and his Ministry were not in tune with the spirit of the Emergency and there was little to suggest that they would enforce even the letter of it.

What is, however, rather interesting is the Governor’s recommendation for the setting up of a high-powered commission to enquire into serious allegations against the Karunanidhi Ministry and also against some of the individual Ministers. Corrupt practices under official patronage had long become a household feature of the DMK Raj.

It could not possibly be that Governor Shah was unaware of them, though it might be quite possible that with his very personal relations with Karunanidhi, he had long been reluctant to recommend any drastic step. In Parliament, the government this week has admitted that complaints of ministerial corruption against the DMK Government had been received by the Centre as early as 1972.

The formal presentation of memoranda by both the Anna DMK and the CPI leaders at that time were widely publicised. Why was it that it has taken the Centre more than three long years to take cognisance of such grave allegations which were backed by detailed notes in those memoranda?

This is a very pertinent question which cannot be brushed aside if the credibility of the Centre’s present action has to be strengthened. Who the persons are and what the considerations were that so long held back any step against corruption in administration in Tamil Nadu—the clamour for clarification has to be heeded if the Centre’s earnest in combating corruption is not to be cynically undermined.

On the political sphere, the pro-American bias of the Karunanidhi Ministry has long been known. Reports of American interest in the agitation for a separate Telangana having been routed through the DMK links, were never dismissed.

It was odd that the Central Government with its angry denunciation of the US agencies engaged in infiltration and destabilisation, should have allowed the Karunanidhi Ministry a measure of freedom for so long in such matters of national security. On this score, too, the public has a right to now the actual state of things.

The imposition of President’s Rule in Tamil Nadu, however, imposes new responsibilities on the Centre. It would neither be adequate nor very convincing to concentrate fire on the DMK for the alleged failure of the Karunanidhi Ministry on the plane of performance of its development programme. This line of propaganda—tried by the Prime Minister in her Madras speech last month—had its obvious disadvantage, since Tamil Nadu does not figure in the bottom half of the Plan Progress Report as does West Bengal.

For instance, C. Subramaniam, who cannot be accused of being friendly to the DMK, has conceded that it is “entitled to certain achievements in the welfare sector”—a point of view which seems to be at variance with the Prime Minister’s, at least in the eyes of the lay public. And there is a grain of realism in Subramaniam’s observation.

More serious is the danger posed by the whipping up of parochial Tamil chauvinism by the DMK talking of the so-called northern domination from Delhi. This pernicious propaganda cannot be countered by mere financial allocations generously and promptly made under President’s Rule. Nor can this be countered by shedding tears over Kamaraj’s demise or by the posthumous award of Bharat Ratna on him.

This challenge demands sustained political activity by all Congressmen and their allies in Tamil Nadu undertaking mass explanatory campaign on the tangible benefits of national integration and also bringing to the common man the benefits of any radical economic measure.

This, in its turn, demands that the Congressman in Tamil Nadu has to be politically live-wire with roots in the masses, and not just look up to New Delhi for both survival and sustenance. More important, it is through such a course that the Congress can win over the Congress (O) ranks, the bulk of whom, despite all the poppy-cock in the press, have not come over to the Congress.

Tamil Nadu also enjoins upon the Congressmen all over the country to activate themselves in mass work and cleanse corruption at high places in other parts of India. They have also to see that legislation in the period of the Emergency commands democratic support. The session of Parliament about to end, has demonstrated ominously the resistance, on the part of a firm ally like the CPI, to major measures such as the Bonus Bill, besides a spate of sharp criticisms on various issues from neglect of safety in mines to liberal concessions to Big Business.

In such a context, the Congressmen have to seriously involve themselves in mass activity. And mass activity must not be confused with lionising a high- breed political spring-chicken trotting out the worn-out shibboleth of being neither Left nor Right. Mass activity for social advance demands clear-sighted patriotic orientation which cannot escape having a Left perspective.

The road beyond Tamil Nadu is not strewn with roses.

(Commentary by Analyst, Mainstream, February 7, 1976)

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