Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has, at her very first meeting with Narendra Modi after the latter’s assumption of duties as Prime Minister, submitted a 64-page memorandum containing a long wish list among other things. As regards, Sri Lanka, she has sought the Centre’s intervention to take over Kachchativu and conduct a UN-sponsored referendum on Eelam. These, she has been harping on for a long time without success. What is of interest, in our book, is her request that the new BJP-led government declare Tamil as an official language.
One is intrigued. Why hasn’t either she or any of her predecessors like M. G. Ramachandran or even M. Karunanidhi been able to sort out that issue all these years? Has she taken it up with previous Central governments? Or, is this the first time she is giving it a go? And what if the Centre does not grant her wish?
It may be recalled that in the run-up to the recent parliamentary polls, in Tamil Nadu, described as the birthplace of a Dravidian movement averse to Hindi, Modi, as the prime ministerial candidate of a party identified with Hindi-speaking Northern Indians, made all his stump speeches in Hindi with a translator, according to the Indian media. Political observers expected him to speak at least in English in that state. But, a seasoned political leader, he must have known what he was doing.
As a leader who claims to champion reconciliation, coexistence, equal rights for one and all, justice and fair play, PM Modi will find it difficult to refuse to accede to Jayalalithaa’s request for the elevation of Tamil to an official language. She represents 72 million people. He is in a position to do something about this particular wish of hers though he may not want to go so far as to help dismember a neighbouring state to appease her.
A formal alliance between Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK and Modi’s NDA has been ruled out though the former has offered to back the latter in the Rajya Sabha. However, speculation is rife in Indian political circles that they might have to opt for some kind of broader understanding sooner or later. In Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa’s Amma Wave effectively stemmed the Modi Tsunami at the last general election. Moreover, it is not seldom that the writ of the Centre is challenged in that part of India and the new BJP-led government will have to repair the Centre-state relations there. After all, PM Modi has stressed in his Ten Commandments the need to ‘usher in a new era in Centre-state relations’. Likewise, Jayalalithaa has to reconcile herself to the fact that the Centre is now stronger than ever under PM Modi’s leadership and, politically speaking, the tail can no longer wag the dog. Both leaders must be feeling the need to co-operate even outside the Rajya Sabha though the BJP has an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha.
PM Modi lost no time in impressing on President Mahinda Rajapaksa after his oath-taking ceremony the other day that India, under his stewardship, desired to make a go of its mission to ensure ethnic harmony and equality in this country. He also indicated a strong desire to see the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. This has not been to the liking of the Sri Lankan government, but he has struck a responsive chord with the ethnic minorities here. He is said to be a leader who preaches what he practises and vice versa. Else, his ascent to the highest elected position in the world’s largest democracy wouldn’t have been possible. Will he live up to his reputation and grant Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s wish that Tamil be declared as an official language?