By P.K.Balachandran/The Citizen
Colombo, July 3: Tamil Nadu in turmoil. Given the determination of Governor R.N. Ravi to harass the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government in Tamil Nadu, and the Center’s tacit approval of it, it appears that the game plan of the Center ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is to render the DMK regime dysfunctional and eventually, install a government of defectors.
The hope is that If the tug-of-war between Ravi and Chief Minister M.K.Stalin continues interminably, and the BJP government at the Centre continues to unleash its investigative agencies against DMK ministers and party heavyweights, defections from the DMK will follow.
The DMK is united and ready to face any challenge, but the Center has the instruments to intimidate and the BJP has the financial muscle to coax MLAs to defect.
While the Center and Governor Ravi are using their executive power to stymie the DMK government, the opposition AIADMK and the Tamil Nadu BJP led by ex-police officer, K. Annamalai, have been vigorously campaigning against the Stalin regime on the issue of corruption.
Presently, their cause celebre is the massive “jobs for money” scandal involving DMK heavyweight and minister Senthil Balaji.
Many years ago, as Transport Minister in an AIADMK government, Senthil Balaji had allegedly minted money by selling departmental jobs. He has been accused of money laundering too. The Central agency, Enforcement Directorate, has been handling these cases.
However, it is felt that Senthil Balaji is being pursued with vigour because of the rivalry between him and BJP State President Annamalai who belong to the same area and the same caste. Apparently, the calculation in the BJP is that if Balaji is made to bend and forced to come to terms with Annamalai, the BJP will be able to capture the Kongu Velalar caste, the dominant caste in the Kongu region of North Western Tamil Nadu. Senthil Balaji has made a name for himself as a dynamic politician and capable organizer in the Kongu area and political parties have courted him.
When Senthil Balaji suffered a heart attack during an 18-hour non-stop interrogation by the Enforcement Directorate, the DMK and is allies rose to his defense, accusing the interrogators of merciless torture.
Since Senthil Balaji was in hospital undergoing urgent bypass surgery and still in custody, Chief Minister Stalin gave his portfolios to two other ministers and made him ‘minister without portfolio’. But the Governor refused to abide by the Chief Minister’s advice saying that a man being investigated for high corruption could not be a minister.
But Stalin shot back saying that as per the constitution, the Governor had to go by the advice of the Council of Ministers on all matters. The Governor then sacked Senthil Balaji.
Stalin again retorted saying that Governor could not sack a minister of his own volition and that he had to go by the decision of the Council of Ministers. With the local BJP also expressing its displeasure over his conduct, the Governor relented and announced that he was keeping Senthil Balaji’s dismissal “in abeyance”.
Complicating matters further, it was reported on June 12, that a video of an Indian Army jawan had surfaced on Twitter alleging that his wife was “stripped half-naked and brutally beaten” by a group of people in Tamil Nadu, The BJP state unit chief K Annamalai slammed the Stalin-led government and said that he was “ashamed” that such an incident happened in Tamil Nadu. He said he spoke to the concerned army jawan, Havildar Prabakaran, and assured justice for his wife. The local police however dismissed the case as an exaggeration.
Earlier in March, a mass-circulated Hindi daily from North India put out a story saying that North Indian migrant workers were being attacked in Tamil Nadu and that they the workers were returning to their homes in the North in panic. Several videos were circulated showing North Indians being beaten up. But the allegations were false. The Hindu found out that the videos were fake. The episode was apparently part of a campaign to malign Tamil Nadu by portraying it as an anti-North and anti-national state.
As things stand, Governor Ravi will not give up his mission to fix the DMK government and destroy its ideology based on Tamil nationalism which is antithetical to centralization and Hindutva.
Ravi has been harassing the DMK government by holding up bills sent to him for assent. As of May 22, the Governor had 13 bills pending with him. When asked why he was sitting on bills and not sending them for reconsideration as per the law, he blithely said that denial of assent could be taken as rejection.
In January this year, during his address to the State Assembly, the Governor skipped a paragraph containing references to certain national and regional leaders and the term “Dravidian Model of governance”. The paragraph skipped by Ravi read: “Following the principles and ideals of stalwarts like Thanthai Periyar, Annal Ambedkar, Perunthalaivar Kamarajar, Perarignar Anna and Muthamizh Arignar Kalaignar, this government has been delivering the much acclaimed Dravidian Model of governance to its people.”
After the Governor’s speech, Chief Minister Stalin moved a resolution to retain on the Assembly records only the printed and approved speech copy that was presented to the members of the House earlier. He urged that portions “inserted” or “omitted” by the Governor in his oral address should not be part of the record. Slighted, the Governor walked out. No Governor had walked out of the Tamil Nadu Assembly before.
Ravi has been a vocal opponent of the Dravidian movement and has described the “Dravidian model of governance” as fake. He has publicly stated that the Dravidian model is “outdated and divisive”. He even said that the name of the State should be “Tamilaham” (Home of Tamil language) and not “Tamil Nadu” ( Tamil Country) which smacked of separatism. Madras State was renamed Tamil Nadu after the DMK captured power in the State in 1967.
Ravi said at a recent function to celebrate the founding days of States, that States were re-organized for administrative convenience and not on linguistic bases. He also said that Indians should be united only on the basis of religion and culture not on political grounds.
Rebutting Ravi’s contentions Chief Minister Stalin said that the secular Dravidian movement based on secularism and social justice cannot be grasped by people who are motivated by caste and religious considerations, alluding to the BJP. Eminent Tamil Nadu scholars have urged the Governor to read history.
The DMK and its allies have decided to fight Ravi and the Center politically. Stalin has stated that the Center’s anti-federal politics, its misuse of the post of Governor and the investigating agencies, will be grist to the DMK’s mill in the run-up to the May 2024 parliamentary elections.
“ We will win all the 40 seats,” he said. Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have 40 Lok Sabha seats between them.
Meanwhile, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) has carried out a signature campaign calling for the recall of Governor Ravi.