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After Series of 'Outsiders', Sasikala to be first Tamil CM in 29 Years

VVP Sharma @vvemuri

Updated: February 8, 2017, 8:37 PM IST
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After Series of 'Outsiders', Sasikala to be first Tamil CM in 29 Years
File photo of Sasikala.
Strange as it may seem, Tamil Nadu, which gave the clarion call for linguistic regionalism in India and which produced the long-lasting Dravidian movement of political and social reform, has had more chief ministers of non-Tamil descent ruling it. It is this irony that stands out remarkably, as the state prepares to anoint a new chief minister.

But the chief minister-elect VK Sasikala, assuredly, is of Tamil descent. She is from Thiruthuraipoondi in Thiruvarur district, around 300 km from capital Chennai.

Sasikala will be the eighth individual to be chief minister of Tamil Nadu as Madras State (earlier Madras Presidency) came to be known since 1969. Of the seven individuals, four were of Tamil descent – CK Annadurai, VR Nedunchezhiyan, Janaki Ramachandran and O Panneerselvam. The other three were of non-Tamil descent, namely, M Karunanidhi, MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa. The first four individuals together ruled Tamil Nadu for a total of 486 days or one year and 121 days. The other three together ruled the state for over 47 years!

That is why, for a demographic reason alone, Sasikala makes news. Whatever else she may be – she has never fought elections, she has never held any office, she has no experience of the political kind, etc – she is of Tamil descent and whose mother tongue is Tamil.

And she succeeds a Tamilian, Panneerselvam, even though the gentleman has repeatedly said he has always and only been a stopgap arrangement. If one goes by his words, then Sasikala becomes the first, rooted Tamilian to be chief minister after Janaki Ramachandran, the widow of MGR, who briefly sat on the chair between January 7, 1988 andJanuary 30, 1988. That has been a long wait of 29 years!

Many chief ministers in the past have been of Andhra descent, representing the borderless existence of the Telugu and Tamil speaking people under the broad umbrella of Madras (presidency and then state) for generations. In fact, even today, those living on the border of Andhra and Tamil Nadu speak both languages, allow marriages between them and share several customs and rituals.

The first chief minister of Madras Presidency was Agaram Subbarayalu Reddiar (1920-21). He was born in a Telugu Reddy family domiciled in South Arcot district of Madras Presidency. He was succeeded by the Raja of Panagal Rajarayaningar, from a zamindari in Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh. It is not clear if he was a pure Tamil, though he was associated with Tamil institutions.

The third Madras chief minister was P Subbarayan, by far the most pedigreed Tamil and who left a political dynasty after him. He was from a family of zamindars, of the estate of Kumaramangalam, of Thiruchengode. His eldest son was Mohan Kumaramangalam, a minister in the Indira Gandhi cabinet. His second son, General PP. Kumaramangalam, was a veteran of the Second World War and a former Chief of Army Staff. His grandson – Mohan’s son -- was Rangarajan Kumaramangalam, a former Union minister. Rangarajan’s mother Kalyani Mukherjee was the niece of Ajoy Mukherjee, former Chief Minister of West Bengal, and of Biswanath Mukherjee, husband of the CPI parliamentarian Geeta Mukherjee.

His successor Bollina Munuswamy Naidu was a Kamma Naidu of Andhra descent. The next chief minister was not only of Andhra descent, but was the King of Bobbili in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh. He was Sir Ramakrishna Ranga Rao, a Telugu Velama by caste. He was followed by P Thiaga Rajan, a Tamil, from Theni near the Kerala border with Tamil Nadu. The next was Kurma Venkata Reddy Naidu, a Kapu from Draksharamam near Elugu in Andhra Pradesh. He was also a former commander-in-chief of the Indian army.

C Rajagopalachari, a prominent Iyengar, took over next as chief minister. He was also the last Governor-General of India. Another leader of Andhra descent succeeded him. He was Tanguturi Prakasam. He would later become the first chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, carved out from Madras State in 1956. Prakasam was succeeded by another Telugu speaking leader, OP Ramaswamy Reddiar, in March, 1947, months before Independence. He was in power when India became free. PS Kumaraswamy Raja, from the Pusapati family in Andhra Pradesh, was the last chief minister of Madras Presidency.

Raja was also the first chief minister of Madras State. Four others became chief ministers after him of Madras State before it became Tamil Nadu on January 14, 1969. These four were C Rajagopalachari, K Kamaraj, M Bhaktavatsalam and CN Annadurai – full-blooded Tamils all.

Annadurai was the first chief minister of Tamil Nadu. He was succeeded by another Tamilian, VR Nedunchezhiyan. Then came M Karunanidhi born in Tirukkuvalai in Thiruvarur district in the composite Madras Presidency, a descendent of Telugu-speaking parents. MG Ramachandran, who like Karunanidhi was the doyen of Tamil pride, was a Sri Lankan-born Keralite. Jayayalithaa herself is a Mandya (Mysore)-born Iyengar whose mother tongue is Kannada.

The founder of Tamil Nadu’s Dravida movement is EV Ramasamy Naicker, popularly known as Periyar. He was a Kannada Balija. Even among CM-hopefuls or other prominent leaders of Tamil Nadu there are many of non-Tamil descent. To name a few of them: Vaiko alias Vayapuri Gopalasamy is a Telugu-speaking Kamma Naidu from Andhra. Prominent actor and DMDK leader Vjiayakanth is a Balija Naidu, common to both Andhra and Tamil Nadu. Thespian Rajinikanth is a non-Tamil too, a Maharashtrian born in Mysore. Actress Khushboo is from Punjab.

First Published: February 6, 2017, 1:57 PM IST

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