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OPINION | Tamil Nadu Leaders Who Threaten Cauvery Fast Don't Have the Stomach for a Fight With Delhi

Politically speaking, Tamil Nadu has been reduced to a caricature of its earlier powerful self under a Jayalalithaa and a Karunanidhi.

TS Sudhir |

Updated:March 31, 2018, 9:55 AM IST
OPINION | Tamil Nadu Leaders Who Threaten Cauvery Fast Don't Have the Stomach for a Fight With Delhi
AIADMK leaders raise slogans demanding constitution of Cauvery Management Board, at Parliament House on March 19. (PTI)
In July 1993, J Jayalalithaa, in her first term as chief minister of Tamil Nadu, sat on a fast unto death at the Marina beach. On her agenda was to put pressure on the Congress governments, both in New Delhi and in Bengaluru, to demand monitoring and implementation committees on the interim award of the Cauvery tribunal.

The PV Narasimha Rao government caved within 80 hours. More so because the then PM knew Jayalalithaa's health would not permit her to fast for a long time and if her condition worsened, it could lead to a law and order problem given the proclivity of AIADMK cadre to attempt immolation.

The Centre rushed in then water resources minister VC Shukla to the Marina beach and it was agreed that a committee to monitor the flow of Cauvery waters to Tamil Nadu would be set up. The episode was a pointer to how Chennai (then called Madras), with a powerful CM who dared to call a spade a spade, could get New Delhi to do what it wanted.

Twenty-five years later, Tamil Nadu is at a crossroads of a similar nature. Despite the Supreme Court verdict on February 16 asking the Centre to put in place a ‘scheme’ to implement the Cauvery award within six weeks, March 29 passed by without any such move by New Delhi.

What the Centre is likely to do is to file a petition in the apex court, seeking clarification on what the word ‘scheme’ actually means.

Even the densest will understand this is a tactic to buy time. For, if such a clarification had to be sought, it should have been done within days of the verdict, not after the deadline. This when the court had also categorically said that “no extension shall be granted for framing of the Scheme on any ground”. It needs some audacity to be in contempt of court in such a contentious case.

But then, the BJP, with an eye on winning the elections this summer in Karnataka, will not take any decision which will not be appreciated in the upper riparian state. Karnataka has all along objected to the formation of a board to monitor release of water downstream, which is why the court order was seen as a huge relief to Tamil Nadu.

The BJP's courage to defy the Supreme Court comes from the fact that Tamil Nadu is no longer the land of Jayalalithaa. The present crop of AIADMK leaders do not have the stomach for a fight, quite literally. Proof of that is a token one-day fast that the ruling AIADMK leaders have decided to observe on April 2. It is mere posturing by a party that does not have the spine to tell the Centre that its attitude smacks of political duplicity. The government and the 37 AIADMK MPs have failed the people of Tamil Nadu.

In order to hoodwink the people that the Tamil Nadu government is fighting for the Cauvery cause, it plans to move the Supreme Court to point out that the deadline has not been met. It will give it the fig leaf of the case being in court and therefore sub-judice.

DMK plans Jallikattu-like protests in Chennai and will show black flags when Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes visiting on April 15. The PMK wants every home in Tamil Nadu to sport a black flag, while Rajinikanth made do with just a tweet. Kamal Haasan plans to meet the Tamil Nadu chief minister over the issue, which will be nothing more than a photo-op.

But does the NDA care? No. The Tamil Nadu government could not even secure the PM's appointment with an all-party delegation from the state to request him to form the board.

The BJP in Tamil Nadu looks at Cauvery through the prism of politics. Its leader H Raja says Tamil Nadu will get Cauvery water only if the BJP comes to power in Karnataka. The national secretary of the BJP ought to know that the court order is supreme and it cannot depend on who is in power in Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru to decide whether to turn the tap on or off on Cauvery.

The AIADMK is the third largest parliamentary party group in the Lok Sabha after the BJP and the Congress. It is a travesty that despite being given such an overwhelming mandate in 2014, the AIADMK cannot secure for Tamil Nadu what is due to it.

Beyond token protests in the Well of the House, that most suspect was done at the behest of the BJP to block the no-confidence motion, the AIADMK has done precious little.

Politically speaking, Tamil Nadu has been reduced to a caricature of its earlier powerful self under a Jayalalithaa and a Karunanidhi. Only theatrics are on display with A Navaneethakrishnan, the leader of the AIADMK in the Rajya Sabha, dramatically announcing that all his party MPs will commit suicide if the Cauvery authority was not formed by March 29. Within minutes, his colleagues distanced themselves from any suicide pact.

Perhaps it is an expression of the disgust on the ground that a person from Coimbatore reportedly sent a sachet of rat poison by courier to Pollachi MP C Mahendran's address in New Delhi. The party does not need a crystal ball to gaze into its future in 2019.

(Author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)
| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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