Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s walkout from the National Development Council (NDC) meeting on Thursday is reminiscent of a similar protest staged by four non-Congress Chief Ministers 28 years ago.

At that time, on July 12, 1984, the four Chief Ministers — N.T. Rama Rao (Andhra Pradesh), Jyoti Basu (West Bengal), Ramakrishna Hegde (Karnataka) and Nripen Chakraborty (Tripura) — were protesting against the dismissal of the Farooq Abdullah government in Jammu and Kashmir.

A news report carried by The-Hindu the next day (July 13, 1984) stated that sharp exchanges between Rama Rao and Indira Gandhi, who was Prime Minister and NDC chairperson, preceded the walkout. As Rama Rao began reading a statement on behalf of the four Chief Ministers, he was interrupted by the Prime Minister. But Rao and the three other Chief Ministers insisted that he be allowed to complete his statement. Indira Gandhi took the view that the NDC was not a political forum and the meeting was meant to discuss the Seventh Five-Year Plan. After the four Chief Ministers walked out, a resolution, adopted by the Council condemned their action. It was moved by Kerala Chief Minister K. Karunankaran and seconded by Panruti S. Ramachandran, who was then the Electricity Minister of Tamil Nadu].

Though the two walkouts vary in detail, there are some common features. Just as Ms. Jayalalithaa criticised the Centre’s attitude towards non-Congress Chief Ministers and causing “humiliation” to a Constitutional authority by not allowing her to speak beyond 10 minutes, Rama Rao, who led the walkout in 1984, too faulted the Union government’s attitude. The Chief Minister said the spirit of Centre-State relations had become a casualty of the Centre’s attitude towards non-Congress governments. In particular, the Union government was displaying a “step-motherly” attitude towards Andhra Pradesh. The Centre’s attitude, he said, was insulting to the governments of non-Congress States which were voted into office by the people.

[Mr Ramachandran, now in the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam and deputy leader of the Opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, was not available for his recollection of the 1984 walkout.]

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