There is a strong reason behind this direction: the Nehru dynasty and its coterie were over-zealous in perpetuating the memory of Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi (not yet Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi) by naming prominent places like towns, roads, airports et al after these. For Tamil Nadu this is nothing new. Over the last 50 years the Dravidian parties have been following a similar practice naming streets and buildings after leaders of the Dravidian movement. Add to this the demands of vote bank politics that depend on caste calculations. So there had also been the attempts for glorifying the contributions of leaders from different castes. Just look at the proliferation of the statues of these all across the state.
Smarting under the side-lining of leaders other than the Nehru clan, the BJP has been keen to utilise its hold of power by projecting stalwarts of the RSS, Jan Sangh and other Hindutva outfits like Veer Savarkar, Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Madan Mohan Malviya… One also witnesses efforts to highlight the contributions of Sardar Vallabhai Patel apart from Gandhiji, to focus on Gujarati Asmitha…
One witnesses a similar pride of the Bengali over its sons, Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose... There has been welcome unanimity on the part of the Bengalis over these heroes.
Sadly, Tamil Nadu provides a stark contrast: the politically hyper-sensitive state has been driven by caste divisions and politics for nearly a century. Thus Tamil Nadu failed to respect its heroes in unison. Maha Kavi Subramanya Bharathi dreamt of a free India six decades ahead of its independence. He took bold to write strong editorials in Swadesamitran against the British. He roused the public conscience through his fiery, patriotic poems on independence and also dreamt of the free India focusing on education, industry to produce weaponry, paper... His Panchali Sabadam depicted Bharata Mata as Draupati and the latter’s fiery vow when the Duryodan brothers attempted to disrobe her. And how spiritedly Bharathi talked about liberation of schedule castes and women from centuries of oppression and dreamt of a caste-free India!
Yet the Dravidian leaders wouldn’t recognise the genius of Bharathi and Tamils as a group and failed to win for him his rightful place at the nation’s reckoning!
M P Sivagnanam (Ma Po Si), an ardent freedom fighter, once narrated the following:
“In the 1950s the Central government, under the lead of Dr S Radhakrishnan, requested different states to provide details on the contribution of leaders of their respective states to the freedom movement. The Centre offered to publish this. Ma Po Si said that other states complied with the request. In Tamil Nadu also a draft for this was prepared and submitted. Sadly, the leaders found too many of the freedom fighters from the state belonged to the Brahmin community and there was much less reference to others. Familiar with the virulent anti-Brahmin tirade, the leader chose not to send the draft to Delhi. Ma Po Si said that regrettably Tamil Nadu failed to project its contribution to the freedom struggle”.
Time and again one has been witnessing the result of such neglect. The I&B Ministry produced a documentary on the Tiranga Yatra. It shows the NDA ministers visiting the birth places of Bharathi, V O Chidambaram, Kattabomman and Muthuramalinga Thevar. There were liberal references to Sardar Patel, Morarji Desai and a dozens of other less known leaders. These are welcome, but why this glaring omission of the great sacrifices and rich contributions of Rajaji, Sathiamurthy, Kamaraj, R Venkataraman and C Subramaniam? While one appreciated the correction sought to be made by Prime Minister Modi to move away from the one-sided glorification of the Nehru dynasty, should he also be oblivious to the indifference and unconcern of the Dravidian parties to get such stalwarts from Tami Nadu getting side-lined?
The side-lining of Rajaji, whom Gandhiji described as his conscious keeper, his sacrifice of a lucrative practice, participation in the Sathyagraha movement suffering imprisonment, his contribution to the smooth transfer of power by being the first Indian governor general and later accepting the chief ministership of the state and his intellectual prowess were so facilely forgotten! Remember his spirited fight against the licence-permit-quota raj of the Nehru era that took over three decades to gain acceptance in 1991?
Minister Pon Radhakrishnan and the state BJP President Tamizhisai Soundararajan should have presented a better picture on the contribution of the state’s leaders to the freedom movement.