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This column had made the point that Governor R N Ravi was not just an administrative choke point for the government but was seeking to amplify the nationalist narrative as a counter to Dravidian ideology and the DMK. Governor R N Ravi was not just a tough customer who stalled government work but was an ideological adversary who used his position to trash Dravidianism loudly and publicly. His latest broadside is a distillation of that general approach and validates the conclusion made then.
Governor Ravi is certainly outstepping Constitutional boundaries in his hostility to the government he is formally heading. His station in life at this point is not to be a counterpoint to the state government that he symbolically heads. But that is exactly the role he has apparently been assigned by the central government and BJP leadership. After every controversy, he visits Delhi to meet the leadership and comes back to continue in the same vein.
Until now, few have challenged Dravidianism as the governing ideology in the state. The Congress whose true DNA is a diluted BJP has only occasionally been forthright in presenting the nationalist narrative. The Left had been a consistent and solid critic of Dravidianism but was far too weak in numbers to make an impact. The BJP had and has no one to do it. The Governor fills that space. Only that’s not the role the Constitution envisages for Governor Ravi.
The BJP juggernaut continues to roll along nationwide. Even the northeast that is in large part outside the nationalist narrative politically and culturally has been conquered electorally by the BJP. One nation, one religion, one party — that seems to be the road ahead for India.
Sanghis feel empowered to assert Dravidianism belongs to history. For them, it’s a quaint throwback that doesn’t belong in today’s India. As Madras Presidency, Tamil Nadu was very much a part of the Indian nation’s formative years as any other region. So it’s time to show Dravidianism that owes its origins to a pro-British formation its place, they say.
Governor Ravi is certainly outstepping Constitutional boundaries in his hostility to the government he is formally heading. His station in life at this point is not to be a counterpoint to the state government that he symbolically heads
In the past, CPM stalwart P Ramamurthy sought to swat Dravidian ideas with the Marxian sledgehammer in his book, Ariya Mayaiya Dravida Mayaiya. Dravidian ideology stood no chance against a school of thought buttressed by the work of thousands of brilliant minds, from Marx and Lenin to Gramsci and Althusser, across the world. PR, for instance, made mincemeat of the DMK’s support to the brahmin bourgeoisie when it came to factory discord. Whether in the Simpsons strike or cement business, the DMK was actively working for brahmin industrialists, said PR, in an attempt to show caste was mere cover for what was essentially a bourgeois party. But the popularity and visceral appeal of Dravidianism could not be dented in Tamil Nadu. And it sustains to this day.
Dravidianism is not going away any time soon irrespective of the electoral fortunes of the DMK. It has more than 100 years of thinking, articulating and narrative building behind it. Dravidian welfarism is the natural order of politics here.
The DMK represents a democratization that went far and beyond the Justice Party. The AIADMK took empowerment all the way down. The Congress was and is a party of local bigshots. The BJP is still floundering. It is struggling to find a social base. Its social engineering has been a non-starter. There’s nothing in Tamil Nadu that cannot come under the broad Dravidian framework, until today at least.
Love of language, caste-based empowerment, Tamil identity, and anti-brahminism and its corollaries remain the touchstones of TN politics. The BJP may still grow through slow osmosis and attrition. Dravidianist leaders may lose credibility. They may run out of ideas to address the changing needs of voters. Even then the BJP may not have much use for someone like Governor Ravi. The BJP may surge in the state but that may not come on the back of a radical crossover to BJP type nationalism espoused by Governor Ravi.
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