IS Centre Remote Controlling Tamil Nadu? Analysis


The BJP-led NDA government at the Centre is being sharply accused of taking advantage of a weak government in Tamil Nadu to stand its feet in the state politics. As the protests and beef feasts have begun across Tamil Nadu, with some Muslim groups, a segment of IIT Madras students, in addition, the Dravidar Kazhagam, the mother association of the DMK is in the opposition against the Centre’s ordinance banning the sale of cattle at animal markets. This move has also been seen as an indirect ban on beef.

Interestingly, there has been no word from the Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy, however, his predecessor Panneerselvam issued a statement requesting PM Modi to cancel the ban. On the other hand, it is not surprising for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Congress to protest the ordinance, but Panneerselvam’s statement raised many eyebrows. The beef raw is not merely the only issue on which state’s decision regulation is seen to be on the wrong track of the Union Government that has been blamed for taking a benefit of the weak government in Tamil Nadu to take some major decisions, devastating country’s federal structure. In a move expressed by political experts as ‘gubernatorial over-reach’ on May 28, the state’s governor-in-charge C Vidyasagar Rao appointed retired Justice Lodha to direct the search committee in charge of appointing vice-chancellors of various universities. The post of vice-chancellor has been empty, with the governor, who is the chancellor of all state-run colleges, dismissing all the candidates recommended by search committees for over a year.

On Rao’s orders, the state government then immediately passed an order, changing the search panel’s development itself. Rao had also gone under fire in February when he didn’t swear Sasikala in for 10 days as Chief Minister, in spite of her being elected as leader of the legislature party of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). On December 21, after a few days of the death of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa (December 5, 2016), the Income Tax department carried out raids on then chief secretary Ramamohana Rao’s residence and office, with the company of armed CRPF personnel.  The then Chief Minister Panneerelvam didn’t protest. All these raids were conducted regarding with the arrest of Shekhar Reddy, a sand mining tycoon in Tamil Nadu, who allegedly channeled money through the companies owned by the chief secretary’s son. Later, Rao was removed as the chief secretary and kept on shortlist till Girija Vaidyanathan took over.

Beginning of Capitulation

In a series of raids by the IT department and CBI on ministers, their friends and helpers in the midst of reports of big level voter bribing by the ruling party ahead of the now stalled bypoll for Jayalalithaa’s RK Nagar seat, the EPS-led AIADMK (Amma) took the conscious choice not to rub the Centre on the wrong track. As per the plan, there should be a criticism of the Centre, only mild lip-service of the opposition to NEET. They also decided to not push Centre much for drought funds. On May 5, to impress the Centre, an extraordinary circular was issued instructing all the district officers of the department of information and public relations to distinguish and compile ‘success stories’ of different Central government schemes in the state. It is also planned by the state government to celebrate the three years of BJP-led Central government.

While speaking at the inauguration of the Chennai Metro rail’s second phase on May 14, the Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said, “We will be giving all co-operations. My co-operation depends on your operation… Otherwise, there is a separation…so please join together.” However, he immediately said that “I do not want to talk politics”, but he had said enough. It caused a flurry within the political circles that were already at that point seething at what they experience as the Centre’s interruption in administration and government in Tamil Nadu. The working president of DMK MK Stalin and Congress chief Thirunavukkarasar criticized Naidu’s remarks by calling the state government a “puppet” in Centre’s hands. They also alleged that Naidu reviewed Metro rail related files after the event, which caused more tension.

The DMK spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP TKS Elangovan said to Hindustan Times (HT), “This is dangerous. A minister of the Union government sits in the secretariat to review files, even issues a threat to the state government that the Union government is in command. This government is going against all Constitutional norms.” The various political analysts also agreed. “After Jayalalithaa’s death, the Centre is interfering in every issue,” said Aazhi Senthilnathan. “The Constitution provides certain rights to the states and the Centre. Strangely, the BJP is disturbing the state government even though it is not going to be politically benefitted. If elections are held, it is the DMK that will gain the most, not the BJP,” Senthilnathan added. “The Centre is infringing on the rights of every state. On one side, Modi talks about co-operative federalism, on the other, the Union government wants to convert states into a ‘unitary’ government by decimating their rights,” he added.

The interesting thing to notice is that the ideology of BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was agreed on permission for the very first time in the 16 years to do a retouch in Chennai. For the very first time, its national conclave in Tamil Nadu was held where the top BJP and RSS leaders and union ministers participated. However, the AIADMK rubbishes claims of it being the B-team of the saffron party. Firmly rejecting the rumors that AIADMK is the BJP’s “B-Team”, the ruling AIADMK junks all the allegations against them by the opposite parties. A spokesperson of the AIADMK, Avadi Kumar said, “The AIADMK [Amma] is not supporting the BJP and that is why our leaders are in jail and facing false cases. The BJP leaders in TN are openly saying that their aim is to finish off the AIADMK. We will fight it legally.”

But at the same time, he also added that “Just because there are political differences, the people of TN should not suffer. We need the Centre’s support to resolve issues and therefore our relations with it must be good. We are adjusting so that the state is not affected”.

The stand of Bharatiya Janata Party

Not revealing any strategy of its party in the state, the BJP too denies the allegations that it’s controlling a weak government in the state, hanging the sword of IT raids over ministers. The BJP state party president, Tamilisai Soundararajan said, “Nowadays, it has become a custom to criticize the BJP for everything. Those who are leveling such charges are in jittery. They think somehow BJP will come to power. As a party, we do not want to destabilize any government,” Talking about the notice issued by the Naidu, Soundararajan said the Union minister made the comment in a lighter way.

Doubts still unsettled

The oppositions and critics are still not persuaded. The DMK MP TKS Elangovan said, “Most of the ministers are under CBI and IT Department scanner so they are afraid. There is no government or administration in TN at present. So the Centre is taking command.” “The Centre wants to turn the states into colonies. A state is a constitutional body, not an administrative unit….. Tamil Nadu is one of the best states in the country in terms of governance. If they are trying to topple the government, the consequences will be immense and terrifying,” warned the Political analyst Aazhi Senthilnathan.