THIS isn’t the first time and this shan’t be the last when Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Mooka Stalin has taken on the Modi-led government at the Centre. The issue this time around is the non-exclusion of Tamil Nadu tableau in the Republic Day parade.
Why is Stalin on the warpath with the Centre yet again? Let me explain. The theme for this year’s R-Day is 75 years of independence and the Tamil Nadu team decide to showcase some of its greatest freedom fighters — Mahakavi Subramania Bharati, V O Chidambaram, Velu Natchiyar and Maruthu brothers. But the tableau was rejected by the Union Defence Ministry after going through due processes. Stalin shot off a strongly worded letter to PM Modi, saying: “I am deeply disappointed that the state of Tamil Nadu has been deprived of the opportunity to participate in the ensuing Republic Day parade.”
“Exclusion of the tableau of Tamil Nadu will deeply hurt the sentiments and patriotic feelings of the people of Tamil Nadu,” Stalin’s letter said. “This is a matter of grave concern to the state of Tamil Nadu.”
The tableaus of Kerala ad West Bengal have also been rejected, but it is Stalin who stood in defiance against the Centre. Hardly surprising if you know Stalin and DMK’s politics, which revolve around the Dravidian ideology of federalism and opposition to the imposition of “Hindi-led” politicians from New Delhi.
Stalin later announced that the rejected tableau will be showcased in Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu and said how the Tamils struggle for independence predated 1857, clearly sending out a message to New Delhi.
The other recent issue which made M K Stalin see red was the delay in getting the anti-NEET bill ratified which required the Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi to send it for President’s assent. Stalin was reiterating what his senior colleague, T R Baalu had said and rather strongly that the Governor should resign as he had dithered over the issue for almost a year. Later, when a Tamil Nadu delegation sought an appointment with Amit Shah, they alleged that they were made to wait for days and denied audience. Stalin rose up yet again and accused the denial as “anti-democratic”.
Let me now take you through the long list of issues when M K Stalin pushed the Centre back and this despite the fact that Tamil Nadu is as much dependent on the Centre for financial support as other states: first, the NEP, under which the Centre insists that there should be two Indian languages. The DMK refused calling it yet another attempt to impose Hindi on Tamil Nadu and boycotted the HRD ministry’s virtual meet on NEP.
Then came the contentious issue of NEET and something the DMK had promised to abolish in Tamil Nadu owing to a spate of students’ suicides. Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister K Ponmudi echoed what Stalin had said: “Tamil Nadu would conduct the entrance tests, if required, to medical admission on its own for the colleges under the control of the state.” Despite the continuance of NEET nationally, Tamil Nadu decided to appoint the A K Rajan committee to highlight how NEET was a burden on its students.
Next was the attack launched by Stalin’s Finance Minister P T R Palanivel Thiagarajan during the GST council meeting. During the meet chaired by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Thiagarajan asked the “Union government” not to function as a “begrudging donor”.
He further added: “As much as the Union is an integral (in bringing together one nation), it is also a derivative (citizens, elected representatives and even officers of the government, each come from a state), there are no union voters.”
PTR opposed the proposal to raise the GST on coconut oil, terming the move as anti-poor and anti-southern states, where the bulk of coconuts are grown. He further gave several interviews and openly criticised what he saw as the Centre riding roughshod over state’s autonomy.
And there is an even longer list of how Stalin stood up against the Centre — he vehemently protested against Modi’s National Monetisation Pipeline; asked nine state chief ministers to oppose the Centre’s new draft Indian Ports Bill, 2021, as it would dilute state government’s autonomy in port’s regulation and management. Stalin minced no words when it came to the privatisation of airports and yet again thumped the table saying the move usurps the rights and autonomy of states.
When the farmers agitated in Delhi borders for a year, Stalin bitterly criticised the 3 farm bills calling it draconian.
There is no doubt that Pinarayi, KCR and at times even Jagan Mohan Reddy take on the Centre on issues like supply of vaccines; paddy procurement; more incentives under PM Gati Shakti project—all in an effort to secure the rights of their respective states, but for Stalin it is a question of survival for the DMK has its genesis in anti-Hindi agitation; also an insistence of pushing for federal polity. The day Stalin is seen cozying up to Modi, the pleasantries notwithstanding, he shall face the wrath of his Tamil brethren.
Therefore, for now, M K Stalin seems to be the kernel from the south around which an anti-Modi front may become a harsh reality.