news Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 05:30
By Manuraj Shunmugasundaram C.N.Annadurai (Anna), regarded by Jawaharlal Nehru as one of the country's finest Parliamentarians, was a stalwart of the Dravidian Movement. He was known to his supporters as“Arignar Anna”for his outstanding intellect and razor- sharp wit. During his political career, which saw him rise to become the first non-Congress Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, his oratory and erudition was unparalleled. Anna's oratorical abilities greatly helped to explain his party's policies and navigate through tough political opposition. Even today, Anna's speeches on the concepts of majoritarianism and federalism are elegant and enlightening.  Soon after Independence, the Central Government had started phasing out English and instituting Hindi has the official language. Protesting against this, the leaders of the DMK including Anna held numerous meetings and demonstrations against the Centre. During one such meeting, Anna was told of the argument that Hindi should be made the official language due to it's "numerical superiority", as it was spoken by the majority of Indians. To this, Anna countered: "If we had to accept the principle of numerical superiority while selecting our national bird, the choice would have fallen not on the peacock but on the common crow. Why should we then claim the tiger as our national animal instead of the rat which is so much more numerous?" Between 1962 and 1967, Anna served as Member of the Rajya Sabha. During a discussion on changing the name of Madras State to Tamil Nadu, a fellow Parliamentarian asked "what one would gain by changing the name from Madras State to Tamil Nadu". Quick to his feet, Annaresponded, reflecting the emotional affliction of millions of Tamils: "What do I gain? What have you gained by renaming Parliament as Lok Sabha? What have you gained by renaming Council of States as Rajya Sabha? What have you gained by renaming President as Rastrapathi? Therefore I say, what do you lose? This is important because if you were to lose something precious, we would not press for it. If you do not lose something fundamental, we will press for it. The other point was raised, what do you gain? We gain satisfaction sentimentally; we gain satisfaction that an ancient name is inculcated in the hearts of millions and scores of millions of people. Is that not enough compensation for the small trouble of changing the name?" In 1967, DMK was voted into power and Anna was elected as Chief Minister. Anna's government introduced a two language policy for students to study Tamil and English. The Centre had endorsed and urged States to follow the three language formula – Hindi, regional language and English. Notwithstanding pressures from the Centre, Anna articulated the two-language policy thus: "The Government of Tamil Nadu has stated in unmistakable terms that Tamil and English can serve all our purposes, the former as the Official Language of this State and the latter as the link language. If it is accepted that English can serve admirably as a link between our State and the outside world, why plead for Hindi to be the link language here? What serves to link us with the outside world is certainly capable of rendering the same service inside India as well. To plead for two link languages is like boring a smaller hole in a wall for the kitten while there is a bigger one for the cat. What suits the cat will suit the kitten as well." Picture Courtesy- M Karunanidhi's Facebook page Today, almost fifty years later, Anna's speeches are relevant for their clarity of vision and depth of thought. By merging tough ideological concepts with uncomplicated analogies, Anna laid the foundation for a vibrant and informed political discourse in Tamil Nadu.  Manuraj Shunmugasundaram is a policy advisor to elected representatives Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability on the same.

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