In political mess, DMK invokes secession ideas
For the DMK, call for secession from the Indian Union is the mantra for its political revival. But the idea of Dravida Nadu is long past the glory it enjoyed under Ramaswamy Naicker
From deciding to put up a joint front before the Finance Commission against successive reduction in their share of the Union Government’s divisible pool over the last 25 years, four
southern States are being urged to call for secession. Under the Constitution’s 16th Amendment, any such call will be dubbed criminal and the callers are likely to face prosecution.
The villain of the piece is the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Its working president, MK Stalin, has not spoken about this demand. But its official spokesman, Manuraj Shunmugasundaram has written an article drawing attention to this demand that was the centre-piece of his party’s stand till 1963 which it gave up that year to join mainstream politics.
The DMK, led by the re-doubtable M Karunanidhi who in now his 90s, apparently finds the mantra for its political revival in the current situation. Shanmugasundaram said in his article that “the conclave of the Finance Ministers of the southern States held in Thiruvanandapuram...unified by a natural sense of sub-nationalism and distinct regional identity to rekindle the idea of ‘Dravidian Cooperation’ and work together to execute a common agenda.” He added that the presence of senior Ministers from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry at the conclave is a testament to the appeal of the idea.
On the face of it, the DMK has not gone beyond working together with these Governments on common issues. But the entire tone of the article was divisive. Two prominent States did not participate: Telengana and Tamil Nadu. But the DMK spokesman expects them to join the rest at the next meeting in Visakhapatnam next month.
What is the political agenda? He says it may include challenging the Centre’s actions on the “imposition of Hindi or on beef”. The economic agenda “should call for a review of the 15th Finance Commission’s terms of reference and formula for the devolution of funds.”
Obviously no one would object if the States suffering from some common problems bandy together to pressurise the 15th Finance Commission to revise and decide on issue like formula for devolution of funds. All that is admissible.
But the real issue is when the DMK man calls for the revival of ‘Dravida Nadu’. He quotes CN Annadurai’s 1962 speech in the Rajya Sabha, explaining the contours of this another nation consisting of the four southern States. He then goes on to list the benefits of this “separate nation” that was to be carved out “of the Union of India”. The DMK lawyer here rewrites history of the DMK’s long struggle to achieve such a State.
Between 1962 and 1963 came the Chinese aggression taking away some portions of our northern and north-eastern borders. It was only then that the people realised that their chosen lawmakers should first vow allegiance to India in specific terms and the 16th Constitution Amendment was born. After its adoption, a speech like that of Annadurai’s would not have gone on record in Parliament.
It was the wave of patriotism sweeping over the country after the Chinese aggression that made the DMK change its goal form ‘Dravida Nadu’ to ‘Dravidian Cooperation’. The DMK also moved forward since and even won power in the State of Tamil Nadu in 1967, defeating the Congress that was ruling ever since independence.
For this achievement, credit goes to Rajagopalachari, the veteran leader who felt humiliated after the Congress leaders’ conclave chose Rajan Babu than Rajaji for the the first President of the country. In 1967, Rajaji had his revenge when he persuaded DMK’s most popular Annadurai to give up the demand for separate Dravida Nadu and swear allegiance to the idea of Indian Union. With Rajaji’s open support to the DMK, Annadurai became the Chief Minister in 1967. The DMK’s golden age began.
In leaving out this significant part of Tamil Nadu’s history, the DMK spokesman had apparently sought to white wash the fact that it was as a “disciple” of Rajaji that the DMK could first ascend to power. Subsequently, the DMK joined or supported the Congress Governments in the 80s and the Vajpai Government in 1999 to 2004. It was not by separation but integration that the DMK could get immense benefits and entrench itself in power.
The political agility with which the Dravida party could change ideology and partner with opposite camps at the Centre has now been exhausted. The party is now in the wilderness and hopes to recover ground either in the ruins of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the rival Dravida party, after the death of the film star-cum politician J Jayalalithaa.
The anger sweeping in Tamil Nadu after the apex court’s division of Cauvery waters between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is another opportunity. The fairness of the apex court in the Cauvery decision may be questioned but for Tamil Nadu, there is little it can do but accept it.
The grand patron of the party, Karunanidhi, may sill lead the DMK in asking for division. Who is there for a integration of four States in one lump? The founders idea of Dravida Nadu was long dead and with Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh charting their own path to prosperity, there will be few in these other States to back up a four State Dravida Nadu. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have each been pleading their case for water out of the river that flows across the two States; they had almost come to war over this issue: Besides all political parties in each State support the claims of the State for more water.
With Karnataka preparing for its Assembly election, no party there would agree to give more water to Tamil Nadu, the impasse cannot be solved by either party justifying its stand; only an agreed solution with both making concession will help. In Tamil Nadu, it is a dream and it is no less a dream in Karnataka also.
Andhra Pradesh is already split. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has found that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is too tough a nut to crack on his demand for special grants. So far Naidu finds himself having exhausted all the tricks of the political trade to make New Delhi bend.
By standing firm where firmness is required, the Prime Minister has sent a message to all Chief Ministers that he will not bend, however, much they might try. The idea of Dravida Nadu is long past the glory it enjoyed under Ramaswamy Naicker.
(The writer is a political commentator and a former BJP Rajya Sabha MP)
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