Mahatma Gandhi thought “All English-knowing men have enslaved India”, and said in 1918 “Unless Hindi was given national status, all talk of Swarajya was useless”. He established Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, for this purpose. A report by Motilal Nehru in 1928 that wanted Hindustani as the common language of India, as he felt half of India already was using. By that time, Hindustani was almost a century old, and was the Khariboli dialect used in some northern parts of India was consolidating in the northern parts of India, dominating other Sanskrit based vernacular dialects like Maithili, Awadhi, Magahi, Braj, Bhojpuri etc. Both Devnagari and Urdu scripts were used to write the language that contained words from Sanskrit as well as Persian [True to his secular preaching, Mahatma Gandhi resigned from ‘Hindi Sahitya Sammelan’ in 1945 when it was proposed to use only Nagri script to denote Hindi and not Urdu]. Most of the Congress leaders accepted the suggestion that communicating in one language helps the cause of independence.
In 1904, twenty-five years old EV Ramasamy Naicker visited Kashi on pilgrimage. When he went to have the free meal available, he was denied as he was not a Brahmin. Hungry Naicker entered one such eatery by wearing a sacred thread on bare chest, but the gatekeeper pushed him back on to the street. To his dismay, Naicker found out that, that eatery was built by a wealthy non-Brahmin from South India. He transformed into the fountain head of the Anti-Brahminism in later date. Though he was with Congress till 1925, he moved away from it, like many other nationalists of that time.
In 1937, in line with the party’s philosophy of one language, Rajagopalachari, the then chief minister of Madras Presidency introduced Hindi in schools as a compulsory language. This act, coupled with the prevailing Aryan invasion theory was seen a cultural attempt by Hindi speaking Aryans to subjugate Dravidians, dwellers of South India. Though many Brahmin leaders like Radhakrishnan were against imposing Hindi, Rajaji’s act was seen as an act by Brahmins to impose their will on the non-Brahmins. The rest is history that was repeated even after independence. EV Ramasamy Naicker, whose mother tongue was Kannada, thus transformed into “Periyar”, who had seen independence as a power transfer from the English to Brahmin-Baniya combination. Periyar even proposed an independent “Dravida Nadu” comprising southern states of India, based on Anti-Brahminism as common thread. Though other states were less enthusiastic fearing Tamil domination, Ambedkar remarked entire India could well be Dravidistan, if Anti-Brahminism is to be considered a cohesive point. For Dalits, of course nothing changed. If they were exploited by Brahmins earlier, now they are exploited by Dravidians.
Of course, there was a continuous degradation in practising what Periyar preached and Tamil Nadu, like all other states was deeply divided on caste lines. What prevented an open fight between these caste groups so far was the common thread of Dravidian identity and Anti-Brahminism.
If BJP wanted to test electoral pulse of Tamilnadu, it shall keep this back ground in mind. Politically speaking, BJP should have prepared itself to handle current situation, in the aftermath of Narendra Modi’s ascendancy to power. Considering main leaders of both Dravidian parties were not in the best of health, BJP should have tried to increase its presence in Tamilnadu. Perhaps, Jayalalitha might have prevented it, as BJP could grow only at the expense of AIADMK.
In all probability, BJP, by virtue of having the advantage of being in power might have sensed what would happen in Tamilnadu and prepared a plan. In current situation, what BJP can do in Tamilnadu? They need support of AIADMK in Rajya Sabha. All BJP could now wish is the current state government successfully complete its term, till 2019.
Having tricked all MLAs to sign on a blank paper and negotiating a deal with Paneerselvam and making him the chief minister was so far handled by Sasikala in an excellent manner. Within no time, her ‘estranged’ family that could not come close to Jayalalitha had occupied all prime positions during the funeral. Perhaps, this was the only point overdone by Sasikala that may boomerang on her. Normal party workers, who knew that Natarajan, husband of Sasikala was in fact separated from his wife only due to Jayalalitha could sense the ‘coup’ orchestrated by Sasikala. The blatant display of her immediate family was meant for the MLAs to take a note of who is in control now. But, it sent a wrong message to the cadres.
Of course, there were three long months for Sasikala to plan and execute the coup. She might have expected support from BJP in the immediate aftermath of Jaya’s demise, but after one month or so, BJP may try to exert pressure through some means. Considering the less representation of Gounders and Dalits in the cabinet, there would be a fight in the changed circumstances. MLAs belonging to either Gounders or Dalits cannot go alone rebelling against Sasikala or Paneerselvam. But, they can always invoke injustice to the community and split from the party, reducing it to minority. Given her image as someone who exerted negative influence on the beloved ‘Amma’, rebellion against Sasikala is not considered a sin. She may need some votes to float the government and what better way than to engage Congress?
Natarajan, her erstwhile husband had occupied the prime first row place during Jaya’s funeral, along with his friend Thirunavukkarasu (who also happen to be a Thevar), president of Congress in Tamilnadu and Rahul Gandhi. This sent a sublime message of capability of Sasikala’s brain and BJP is correct if it reads, if there is a problem to AIADMK government, Congress too would become active. Of course, as Dalits and Gounders have 59 MLAs between them, after a month or so, power tussle between these caste groups and dominating Thevars would start.
In the immediate future, DMK will not rock the boat of AIADMK. They expect the boat to sink on its own, but would help to create a leak here and there. If DMK destabilises the government now, it would be seen as destabilising Amma’s government. So, Stalin will wait till AIADMK chooses next general secretary. Gounders expect the post be allocated to one senior leader from their community. But, if rumour mill has any substance, Sasikala is all prepared to don the mantle herself. If Sasikala gives up the all-powerful party post, she would be out of the system in few days. On the other hand, if she enforces herself on the party, she would be sowing seeds for the split.
Considering there is no charismatic leader in AIADMK, Sasikala would prefer to rule the next four and half years through proxy. Considering her age and limitations, all she can hope is to run the current establishment till 2021. For her, that itself would be an achievement. Of course, it may so happen that the present government of Paneerselvam may fell on its own. There would be a rebellion in the party and after some amount of turbulence, one natural leader may emerge to take over the reins.
Maybe Sheela Balakrishnan (a Keralite) can become a compromise candidate for the post of general secretary, between all warring factions. But, that can only ensure current government completing present term. Chances of Sheela entering the party are remote considering her image as a highly integral person. What’s next? Future of AIADMK will be a question mark till the emergence of another leader. And, nowhere in these plans will be Sasikala, at least after 2021.
In the middle game, all that matters is how shrewdly Paneerselvam could counter Sasikala. A chaiwala himself (seems being a chaiwala is a political equivalent of IIM degree for a corporate job), Paneerselvam would need support of all MLAs. And, except for Thevars (his own caste), others may not care for Sasikala. If he can really become the choice of his own caste, he can easily sacrifice Sasikala on the altar of Power. If he chooses to side with Sasikala, who is the head of what is collectively called “Mannargudi Mafia” in the state, he may be risking his career against the people’s will.
Sasikala is such a strategist who knows how to execute her plans with a military precision. Already, news reports have started emerging on why should she not be doubted for orchestrating the coup. And this PR exercise is not only limited to Tamil, but in English too. Firstpost had carried out a column, why one should give a chance to her. It was argued that she was loyal to Jayalalitha. The missing point is – how her relatives who used to sit idle entire day without anything to do before Sasikala implanted herself in Jaya’s house, are now controlling politics, business and administration in two to three districts each. All of her relatives were abandoned by Jayalalitha few years ago, but immediately after her death, Sasikala’s family thrust themselves onto the party. Crucial point against Sasikala is never she was involved in the government, party in any official position as she was only ‘loyal’ to Jaya. In such case, how come her family and extended family including her community started controlling the party and government? Why now she need to take up any position in the party or in the government, if she is just a loyal friend to Jaya? Though she would prove a tough fighter to all those whoever try to succeed Jayalalitha, she will have to relinquish the power, to allow one natural leader emerge whom people will trust.
If BJP wants to make its presence felt in the state, the best way is not to meddle in the power struggle. Tamilnadu is the only state where people vote based on emotions. Periyar(Kannadiga), Karunanidhi(Telugu), MG Ramachandran (Malayali), Jayalalitha (Kannadiga), Rajnikanth(Marathi) and even Khushboo (from Mumbai) were loved in the state only because they could connect with the emotions of the people. If BJP’s state leadership can identify itself with the Tamil identity, then – and only then, BJP can try to gain any foothold in the state. Of course, Narendra Modi has a positive image, as a central leader. But, there shall be someone in the state to represent Modi in the state.
Considering BJP has a bagful of goodies in the form of Maharajs and Sadhvis, one loose statement from these loose tongues could offset any amount of positive image the central leadership may induce. BJP should learn from Congress, who could not penetrate into the state politics, even after five decades. If BJP likes, they can learn from their own success and failure stories. Just have a look at Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Better follow Assam model. Or people won’t see any difference between Congress and BJP, especially in Tamilnadu.