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Out of my mind: Puratchi Thalaivi ( theindianexpress)



Last week Fidel Castro and now another Revolutionary Leader, Jayalalithaa. Of course, it sounds incongruous to call her a revolutionary leader. Revolutionaries have to be Left, anti-American and rebellious. Jayalalithaa managed to be loved and mourned for by a vast number of her voters without being traditionally Left or anti-American. What is the secret?

Tamil Nadu is a unique part of India. As a ‘nation’ with one of the oldest languages in the world, it also has literally only a single revolutionary movement, the Dravida Kazhagam, which shaped its economy and politics. Half a century before Ram Manohar Lohia told his followers about caste, Periyar had picked up the struggle against Brahmin domination as the key to transforming Tamil Nadu. The two main parties which are really only the same are his creation.

The DMK/AIADMK saw the Congress, with its Brahmin leadership, off. Even getting K Kamaraj in as Chief Minister did not restore the fortunes of the Congress. For the last 50 years, Tamil Nadu has been ruled by the Dravidian uplift ideology. It is a progressive welfare state unlike no other. If all Indian states were like Tamil Nadu, India would be so much better.

Not just Tamil Nadu, the entire South India has been half a century ahead of the rest of India in the quality of its social life. The CPM manages to run Kerala well while it wrecked West Bengal. One may ask why is that so. How come the CPM destroyed Presidency College, one of the finest educational institutions in India, without any intellectuals protesting? How could the economy of West Bengal be ruined by the CPM with untold harm to the thousands of workers? Why is there a welfare state in Tamil Nadu and Kerala but not in West Bengal?

The contrast between North and South India remains a puzzle. We will see how strong the grip of caste politics is in UP soon when the elections take place. UP’s ruin started with the Congress domination, which reinforced the rule of the higher castes. No subsequent political party has pursued the sort of deep social reform that the DMK achieved in Tamil Nadu. Bihar is again the same; ruined by decades of Congress rule and not improved much by the other parties.

Neither Congress nor the Left ever challenged caste domination. They spoke of socialism but not of the ground reality in India. The Lohiaite parties promoted OBCs but ended up strengthening caste. The social backwardness of India was reinforced. The pathetic nature of SP (despite its title about being Socialist) as a querulous Hindu joint family party says it all.

There will be fake debates about Bharat Mata and secularism but there is no hope that any political party will argue for the abolition of caste or even the removal of Mandal. Caste has now been deeply entrenched in Indian politics with no hope of radical change. South India, especially Tamil Nadu, will continue to be an autonomous political region with no scope for outside parties. The deep roots of welfare politics sown by Periyar and watered by successive chief ministers of both parties have made it a unique state. The other parties will never understand or attempt radical change. India will remain divided into a progressive South and the rest.

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