Tamil Nadu is known for its fascination for films and film personalities. For over five decades, political activity in the state has been moulded around film personalities. Significantly, all the chief ministers of the state from 1967 have been prominent film personalities. Even today, there is a burning ambition on the part of several reel heroes to aim for political leadership. Add to this, the strong caste - orientation of the Tamil society, nurtured by the Dravidian movement over the last eight decades. One thus witnesses the powerful grouping of communities on the basis of caste identities. These are in addition to organising pressure groups on the basis of religion.
Political parties in the state are thus heavily focused on winning the support of the various religious and caste groups - a strange paradox for the state where
EV Ramaswamy Naicker(EVR) professed to working towards a casteless society! Riding on the wave of reservations, there is unabashed clamour for advancing the space for the respective castes and nothing beyond! Leading Dravidian parties base their electoral arithmetic on the support of such caste outfits.
One witnesses a proliferation of statues erected all over the state glorifying the contribution of leaders of different castes. The ritual of conducting pujas and garlanding these on their birth and death anniversaries also expands. EVR, who built his platform on anti-theism, has bred a legion of followers who do not have any qualms worshipping their leaders as demi-goods. It is not uncommon to come across followers lighting camphor at the samadhis of some of these leaders.
An industry a day!
Contrast this with the lack of recognition to other tall Tamils who have brought a paradigm shift to the lives and stature of other fellow citizens. I cite just two of these: R Venkataraman (RV) and C Subramaniam (CS). The former, who started his life as a labour leader, was picked up by K Kamaraj and was entrusted with the portfolios of industry, power, labour and transport. In the 1950s and 1960s, the state made phenomenal progress. One industry or another was set up every day and the attention paid to power development enabled Tamil Nadu to emerge as the first state to electrify every village. Tamil Nadu also emerged as a large producer of foodgrains. RV had the unconventional approach of handing state-won licences to a large number of first generation entrepreneurs. Thus, in contrast to the focus on conventional industries of sugar and textiles, the state set up aluminium, cement, chemicals, paper and even shipping industries.
CS - he triggered the green revolution...
Rajaji picked up C Subramaniam and K Kamaraj entrusted him with the portfolios of finance, education and law. The state earned a great reputation for fiscal administration. Leading civil servants like T A Varghese commanded such respect that the state could get any amount of Central assistance for its plans and effectively utilised these. There was just no corruption! Later, CS moved to the Centre and handled, among others, agriculture. I remember CS telling me: “soon after his appointment as Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri personally came to my house and requested me to take charge as Minister of Agriculture. I was surprised and told him that I had handled steel and heavy industry, finance and law, but, not agriculture. Shastri said he considered agriculture to be the most important portfolio and he wanted me to handle this.”
Obviously, it was the worst of times with severe and pervasive food shortages. India went around with a begging bowl for grain imports. Around 10 million tonnes were imported each year for a couple of years. CS boldly announced the march towards self-sufficiency, went in for import of hybrid seeds with the help of Dr. Norman Borlaug, involved the scientific community and utilised the services of brilliant administrators like B Shivaraman. In just two years, the green revolution took place. Seven years later, CS announced in Parliament that the country has attained self-sufficiency and was even ready to export.
These two tall Tamils do not have any statue! Can you beat that? – SV