The pull of the ‘Centre’ of Gravity

The north thrives even as the south wanes (Vadakku vazhgirathu, therkku theikirathu). This slogan used to stir scores of southerners in TN, in the fifties and early sixties. Those were heady times when the India beyond the Vindhyas was forbidden land of ‘Madarasis’ for the ‘northerners’. At least, this was the staple diet that the torch bearers of the Dravidian movement fed themselves and their followers on. ‘Dravida Nadu for dravidians’ at all costs was their main plank, besides other all too familiar pet themes like rationalism, self-respect.

The seclusion of States down south was a reality to a certain extent and happened owing to reasons ranging from the geographical to historical, social and cultural. But everything became politics with the advent of the Dravidian movement. A historical twist was given with the aid of the much discredited and now debunked Aryan invasion theory and ‘northerners’ were branded as aliens, to be fought. Of course, all South Indian Brahmins too became ‘deemed Aryans’ and not Tamils. Periyar once even said that Christians were not Tamils! Hindi and by extension, the Congress that was ruling the country and TN then, was made a bugbear as anti-north rhetoric inundated the State and its every street. These champions gave the impression that a new Dravidian nation would be born any time!

Come 1962, and the bubble blew up. Seven DMK MPs went to Parliament for the first time. And in his very first speech, the DMK’s leader of the group announced that his party would function within the parameters of the Constitution. No talk of Dravida Nadu. And soon DMK leader Anna announced that they had given up the project on considerations of national interest. Very altruistic and patriotic too. But the talk was that owing to the Chinese aggression, a clampdown was planned on secessionist elements and the DMK faced a ban. Hence the volte face. And the soft landing in Delhi’s very Aryan soil.
And what a turning point it was. The trend set by those first-timers in Delhi continues to this day with great vigour. Dravidian MPs and Ministers studiously leave the ideological baggage behind whenever they board the trains or flights to the Capital. When it comes to dealing with Delhi, principles, even if just lip service, are a burden. So little wonder, that one much-touted tenet after another joined ‘Dravida Nadu’ in the dustbin of history, dumped by Dravidian parties, desperate not to miss the bus, rather, Airbus, to Delhi.

Those who died during the anti-Hindi agitation still have plaques and subways named to their credit, but the ones who pushed them into death in the guise of leading them, can now put Hindi pundits to shame. Tamil-only champions who ensured generations of Tamilians were denied other languages now routinely send their wards to Delhi convents. Rationalists who broke idols of Hindu gods on streets and instead created their own pantheon of icons, gleefully partnered the nationalist BJP, which they themselves had condemned as a party of pandarams. And, of course, they are yet to convince their own kith and kin not to go to temples. And self-respect is the most tradeable of commodities in return for seats and power; people down here can’t see them crawling in Lutyen’s Delhi.

Of course, no one can grudge them for shelving those dubious schemes. But the alacrity with which they do it exposes the sincerety and seriousness that they themselves attached to their professed positions and passions. But their trysts with Delhi were no smooth rides either. If threat of a ban worked with Anna, the notorious Articles 356 had tormented Karunanidhi and MGR, no end. Even now, despite their stated opposition to Art 356, the DMK and the AIADMK would not mind it being used against the other. But today, it is temptation and not threat that is propelling them towards Delhi.

This gravitation toward the centre is no exaggeration, but an underlying reality if only one cares to pick the thread. The prospect of power at the Centre is a great attraction for the Dravidian parties, all of them having tasted it alternatively during the past one and half decades. The AIADMK under MGR had two Ministers in the Charan Singh government which lasted only six months. Maran Sr, and a few others figured in VPSingh’s Ministry, albeit, only for 11months. But the real party started in 1996 when the UF government was formed with the DMK in it in good strength. Then the AIADMK had a shortlived stint of about 13 months in the NDA Cabinet and when it quit, the DMK promptly filled the space. The DMK continues in these Ministries in the current UPA regime too, barring a brief electoral break. Of course, PMK and MDMK men are regulars in the Delhi Bhavans, be it the NDA or the UPA or whatever else. They may rotate between alliances, but power at the Centre remains the pivot.

The Delhi that so repelled and repulsed these die-hard Dravidian leaders once has over the last forty years become a favourite haunt.Today, the impatient neo-generation of these Dravidian parties are unlikely to let go of their positions at the Centre. They would rather let go of the oldies instead, if they play spoil sport, al a, Gowda & son, but not the easy ride with a free ticket to power by virtue of being born into the right leader’s family and being there at the right time. And with their own clout diminishing, the national parties too have no qualms in humouring them.

The pull of the Centre will have its play in the coming TN polls too. The give and take here will also have to take into account the spoils out there. But by current trends, with no reciprocal sharing of the TN cake with the northern ji’s, our annans and their kin look truly set to have the cake as well as eating it. The Dravidians definitely are on a roll. Should we call it the Great Dravidian invasion of the north? Or should we now say, if the South sighs, the north shudders? But with so many of their ‘champions’ entrenched in Aryan land, are the southerners smiling?

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Jawahar T R