The enduring relevance of Gandhi in a Dravidian polity

Be it ending the atmosphere of hate, teaching children in their mother tongue or underscoring the need for probity in public life, Gandhi occupies an important place in the electoral politics of Tamil Nadu

Updated - October 02, 2019 02:03 pm IST

Published - October 02, 2019 12:29 am IST - Chennai

Tamil Nadu, which saw the emergence of a political movement quite different ideologically to Gandhi’s own even during his lifetime, is still in need of the Mahatma’s teachings in a range of areas in public life, according to a cross-section of political leaders and commentators.

Also read: Recovering Gandhi’s religious vision

Be it ending the atmosphere of hate, teaching children in their mother tongue or underscoring the need for probity in public life, Gandhi occupies an important place in the electoral politics of the State even today, they add.

Describing corruption, communalism and casteism as “the evils of current politics of Tamil Nadu”, Panruti S. Ramachandran, a member of the Cabinets of both the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) during the 1970s and 80s, points out that the Mahatma fought these all his life.

On the issue of the movement launched by Periyar E.V. Ramasamy on the plank of self-respect and social justice differing with that of the national movement led by Gandhi for independence, Mr. Ramachandran says while Periyar was for attaining social equality before freedom, the latter favoured freedom.

 

Emphasising that “Gandhi inspired Tamil Nadu which, in turn, inspired Gandhi”, L. Ganesan, BJP’s former national vice-president, recounts that it was during his visit to the State that he decided to take up the loincloth as his attire. He says one should not conclude that the DMK’s ascension to power in the 1967 Assembly election had led to the erosion of respect the people of the State had for Gandhi.

Referring to the row over the now-dropped provision of the draft National Education Policy (NEP), which had originally recommended the mandatory teaching of Hindi in all schools, M. Rajendran, Editor of Kanaiyazhi, a Tamil literary journal, recalls how Gandhi promoted the concept of educating children in their mother tongue and referred to the 1937 Wardha scheme of basic education.

‘Morality in politics’

Lamenting the prevalence of “money culture” in elections in the State, K. Jayakumar, Tiruvallur MP (Congress), says this trend is a threat to democracy.

 

“If votes can be obtained by bribing voters in one form or the other, where is the need for holding elections?” he asks, adding that it is in this context that Gandhi’s insistence on morality in politics assumes great relevance.

D. Ravikumar, VCK general secretary and Villupuram MP, says there are increasing indications that the State is in the grip of an “atmosphere of hate”, divided on the lines of caste or religion. This is why the concept of tolerance, preached by the Mahatma, is of immense importance, he says.

 

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