By S. Sivathasan –
Power is going a begging in Tamil Nadu with none to seize or to hold. Even as the political persona of the nation is being changed from Delhi, states have to move apace for their benefit and the good of India. A happening more dramatic for the nation is the welcome cataclysm in the economic front. Disinvestment at $10 billion, Japan’s pledge of aid at $ 30 billion, China’s at $ 20 billion and committed investments of $ 42 billion from US, indicate features of initial trends. To make way for developments in the offing, decks are being cleared of medieval lumber; legal and administrative. These are being done with great foresight, dynamism and persistence. Are states fully aware of the sea change that has started sweeping across a large nation? Are they gearing themselves for the challenges that are unprecedented? Is Tamil Nadu measuring up to a situation not of its own making but of Modi’s and of the new BJP government? Is Tamil Nadu political leadership sensitive about losing out if not properly oriented well in time?
Quality of Governance
The forward drive of a people is denoted by the direction they set. It manifests in the attributes the leader possesses, display and transmits. If a state is to become great, the leader needs to set the pace. Absolute selflessness takes the people to laudable heights. Kamaraj and Annadurai were beacons in this sense. To them Tamil Nadu was foremost in their thinking. What claimed primacy was more the people’s future than their present. On their dedicated effort and the beneficent fallout, the state is being sustained today. Subsequent regimes have certainly done their pedestrian part, but they never matched the state’s expectations or the potential. They live for the day forsaking the future. More woe some are the depths to which the people have been dragged and mired. A merciless wrench is the call of the hour. To be precise and explicit, a regime change.
What is the prevailing quality of governance in Tamil Nadu? One devastating act is an index of decay. The Minister of Information in Andhra Pradesh is MSc, PhD. In TN he is 6th standard failed. Why such a dismal selection? An ego centric CM has made TN a CM dependent fiefdom. A Tamil poetess said millennia back “Without ‘HIM’ not an atom can move”. “Without ‘HER’ not an atom can move” is the expression the erstwhile CM relishes. This is not the current dictum. It is the inviolable diktat traded by JJ. A featureless Cabinet, rudderless and motionless has now run aground. A stratagem designed with a purpose is ready at hand to tout JJ’s indispensability among the masses. It however cuts no ice with higher echelons particularly the judiciary.
How is subservience of the legislature ensured? By the choice of mindless nondescripts who read little, think less and know nothing. In a state replete with intellectuals, Academics, men of Science, students of Literature, captains of Industry and Leaders in society, failures are treated as having premium value. So the legislature so the cabinet. Managing them was never a problem. They could only adore their AMMA. Without her presence they feel orphaned. The erstwhile CM stood like Gulliver in Lilliput where such was the texture of governance.
Price for Mass Support
Allegiance of the masses though counterfeit, demands its price. Pound of flesh to be exact. For fiscal 2014/15, after discounting Salaries, Pensions and Retirement Benefits at Rs 517 billion; funds available for the whole range of governmental work is an estimated Rs 754 billion. From this amount when the allocation of Rs 490 billion amounting to 65% of the above is deducted, the balance available is Rs 264 billion. This amount is supposed to meet capital and recurrent expenditure. Can it? No. Estimated net borrowing this fiscal is Rs 250 billion. (All statistics are from the Budget Speech of Finance Minister TN).
This is the mode for financing populist profligacy. With waste I secured yesterday. With more waste I will appropriate the morrow also. This is the AIADMK philosophy. – The DMK which set the pace in decades past was no different – This cash nexus explains the weeping, wailing, temple rituals, fasting and human chains of inordinate length. Their inane deeds are better understood if the details of resource dissipation are also known. Some of them in 2014/15 are:
Rs 53 billion for free rice to 18.4 million consumers. In addition subsidy for cooking oil, pulses and Pongal gifts.
Rs 20 billion for mixies, grinders and fans. Said to be for poor families. Already benefited 9.5 million families in 3 years. This fiscal 3.5 million families. So 13 million families with 52 million people are poor so far out of 75 million population. By election time all 75 million will be declared poor and gadgets will be thrust upon them!
Rs 16 billion for 11 gifts to school children like, footwear, school books, uniform material etc.
Rs 11 billion for free distribution of computers to 550,000 students.
Resources for development to incentivize job creation have dried up. Investment promotion is in the back burner. Freebies and subsidies are so numerous, even beneficiaries have lost count of them. Street demonstrators in their countless multitude gave the country and the world an idea of the numbers made indolent and dumb. The tip of the iceberg is of Himalayan proportions.
Parties and Ciphers
Since independence, only three political formations made it to the seat of power in Tamil Nadu: INC, DMK and AIADMK. All others being mere piggy backers.
INC: The Congress was never able to revive its fortunes in TN for 48 years since its decisive defeat. A powerful party up to the sixties, became effete in the seventies, moribund in the eighties, got atrophied in the nineties and reached comatose in the current century. It existed beyond its grave in 2011 and faced the inevitable demise that followed. Its fate was known to everybody but itself.
The insensitivity of the Congress to thrusting Hindi on the Tamils was seen as unpardonable. Its imperviousness to name change to Tamil Nadu, isolated it further. The ‘deadness’ of soul on the Sri Lankan Tamil question came on display in recent years and Tamil Nadu drove the last nail on the cross in 2014. Neither resurrection nor reincarnation hereafter says the wisdom of the Tamils.
DMK: This political formation never lived up to its name. It had no base outside Tamil Nadu. Its separatist ideology was never shared by any of the other three Dravidian states. The party itself never believing in separation espoused the cause only vaguely and feebly. Support in Tamil Nadu was at best lukewarm. Separation was but rhetoric and it was so till the Anti-Secession Laws were enacted. Thereafter DMK could indulge in only social reform.
After 52 years, with massive changes in the Indian political and economic landscape, there is no renewal of DMK’s political philosophy but only placid existence. Merely to cultivate family fortunes as identified universally and incontrovertibly by the people. Piggy backing on other parties and inviting others to piggy back on itself is now the professionalized strategy to have some share of the spoils. Lok Sabha election taught a lesson but DMK refuses to learn. It is going the way of the Congress – inevitable doom. Its days are past.
AIADMK: Did this formation ever have an All India sweep as per its name? Was there a Dravidian scope if it ever had an ideology? Having no traction or any kinetic energy, it floated on anti-DMK venom and swam in anti-Karunanidhi vitriol. Very soon neither will exist. What were the JJ government’s recent exploits?
Converting the modern Legislative Assembly building into a hospital and relapsing into a decadent anachronistic building.
Like the barbarians destroying Rome because they couldn’t understand it, she virtually destroyed the multi-billion rupee Chennai Library completed in 2011. Reputed to be one of the best and most modern in South Asia, it very nearly experienced the ignominy of conversion into a Wedding Hall. Invitation cards were even sent for the first wedding. The wise and firm hand of Chief Justice Iqbal saved it. It had such features as 150 E-Journals, internet, conference venues and a Seminar Hall for 1000. An unlettered minister who saw it wanted it for amusement like weddings because he had never been inside a library.
To quote just one more among hundreds, JJ’s evil eye that fell on the Rs 145 billion, 45 km Chennai Metro had no way of stopping it though Karunanidhi initiated it. Funded by the Central Government, JICA and TN Government, it was too much for lesser minions to touch. She had to make do with stopping the feasibility study of multi-billion dollar Phase II for three and a half years. Such is her love of TN and her concern for commuter interests.
Change and Development
“We must live with change as a partner in our lives”, Nehru said quite often. In the last fifty years, Tamil Nadu has certainly seen growth economically and socially. Substantial at times and not so great at others. Nascent energy of the DMK had made its imprint. Now people look to more impressive development relative to other states and advancing countries. Is the incumbent government in TN moving in step? Not by any standard will be the chorus.
A German academic opened my eyes in 1990 when he pointed out that the problem in unified Germany was that “East Germans had lost their capacity to think independently for 60 years – 1930 to 1989”. Even now Tamils are learned in more than adequate numbers. They are kept outside the pale. To bring them on board a new regime should be in place. Then IAS can deliver. IPS can police. TN can prosper.
Rajani Kanth’s Likely Debut
Those who have a world to win remain unruffled till a timely strike. This is the substance of Valluvar’s wisdom. The writer is inclined to think that for once a serious offer will be buttressed with persuasion by Modi. In the event of the Supreme Court upholding the verdict, Rajani Kanth will be disposed towards accepting it. Why now? The political configuration in Tamil Nadu is substantively and irretrievably different. This tectonic shift has taken half a century to develop and the process yet remains to complete itself.
A captive Chiang Kai Shek was released by the Communist captors because he was found to be the best rallying point for nationalist Chinese. This was essential to stand against the offensives of US and Japan and to defeat them. In like manner Rajani Kanth alone commands the requisite popularity to mobilise forces against AIADMK and DMK. This he will do in conjunction with the BJP and their joint strength can be formidable.
In this situation of flux, the environment is aflush with an authentic report that Modi is keen to draw Rajani Kanth into the BJP fold. Will he respond positively is the speculation. In what position is BJP in Tamil Nadu vote wise? It won an encouraging 7.5 million votes equal to 18.5 % of total votes polled. BJP at central governance with Modi at the helm are very positive factors for state elections to turn in BJP’s favour in 2016 May. The economic turnaround with two years of governance will loom as the profoundest game changer. With JJ convicted by the trial judge for the crime of corruption, her image stands deeply dented. When the appeal court upheld the judgment, it is doubly ruined. In this context the entry of Rajani Kanth will make a difference in the political fortunes of BJP and of Tamil Nadu.
What Tamil Nadu needs today is liberation. People have to get the feel of it. All patriotic forces must coalesce in this common endeavour.