Last week I was in Chennai along with Narendra Modi to participate in Tamil magazine Tughlak’s anniversary function. And what a function it was! Few other journals can draw such large crowds. If Tughlak is a household name in Chennai, Cho Ramaswami also is a name well known and well respected among intellectuals all over the country.
In Cho, we find perfect harmony between Tamil pride and unflinching Indian nationalism.
Tughlak was launched more than four decades back on Pongal Day. So this year’s 14th January was Tughlak’s 42nd Annual Day.
I cannot think of any other journalist who has employed the power of humour and sarcasm to convey serious thoughts so effectively as Cho has always done, both through his writings as well when he speaks.
At this programme, for instance, where he spoke before Narendra Bhai and I did, his nearly forty minutes long speech in Tamil kept the three thousand strong audience in the auditorium roaring with laughter all the while. Sitting beside me in the front row was Gurumurthy who took the trouble to translate Cho to me practically, sentence by sentence, and I could see very clearly why the listeners were rollicking over the chief host’s unsparing barbs.
A distinguished guest who seldom misses Cho’s functions is famous film star Rajnikant. He was present here last week also.
I started my speech with Pongal greetings for the audience. I went on to say that in most parts of the country, the festival is called Makar Sankranti. It’s however Bihu in Assam, Uttarayan in Gujarat and Lohri in Punjab. In Sind, my place of birth, it was known as Uttaran. There was a saying in Sindhi: “Uttaran utiryo, adh siyaro kutiryo” (with the arrival of uttaran, half the winter is over).
In Gujarat, kite-flying is very popular at the time of Uttarayan. Kite-flying during Makar Sankranti is indeed a treat to watch in Gujarat. Narendrabhai has enhanced the attraction of this event by launching the International Kite Festival in the State.
People in Lahore and in other parts of Pakistani Punjab also indulge in kite-flying with an enthusiasm which often borders on frenzy.
Some religious fanatics in Pakistan have been campaigning for a ban on kite-flying, saying that it is an un-Islamic cultural heritage from Pakistan’s Hindu past. But this campaign has made no impact on the common people.
Addressing the journalists present I said: as a journalist myself I am acutely conscious of the metaphorical meaning associated with ‘kite-flying’ in the English language. After seeing Narendra Modi and me together at Cho’s function in a State ruled by Dr. Jayalalitha, before any one starts flying imaginary kites, I myself would like to affirm that we regard Dr. Jayalalitha as our natural ally.
Although AIADMK is not formally a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), our informal cooperation with Dr. Jayalalitha’s party and, especially floor coordination with the party in both the Houses of Parliament has been growing.
Referring to my 40-day Jan Chetna Yatra, I publicly thanked Dr. Jayalalitha, her party colleagues, and her government for helping avert the serious bomb threat to the yatra when it was passing through the Madurai region. In the same context, I expressed my happiness that at the concluding rally of the yatra in Delhi, the AIADMK had deputed its seniormost leader in Parliament Shri Thambidurai to attend.
Since the days of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, who was an outstanding socio-political philosopher and the principal ideologue of our party, we have always emphasized the need for strong states.
Making states strong does not lead to making the Centre weak. We need a strong Centre, but the Centre cannot become strong unless the states become strong.
As we all know, the National Development Council (NDC) is a forum where New Delhi consults State Governments as equal partners. At the recent meeting of the NDC, Tamilnadu Chief Minister, Dr. Jayalalitha said: “I am not sure the Government of India recognizes the states as partners, leave alone equal partners, and respects their viewpoint.”
The same high-handed and authoritarian approach was also seen when it sought to impose its own version of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill on States. This was stoutly opposed by the BJP, our allies in the NDA and also by the AIADMK.
Indeed, even the Trinamool Congress, which continues to be a part of the UPA Government – we do not know for how long! – opposed the Congress version of this Bill on the same ground as the rest of the opposition, namely, that it encroached upon the powers of the state governments.
Ultimately, the Bill didn’t go through. The whole country watched in utter dismay the midnight mockery of Parliament when the debate on the Bill in the Rajya Sabha ended without a vote. My colleague in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, coined a memorable phrase when he described the Congress Government’s behaviour that night as ‘FLEEDOM AT MIDNIGHT’!
The moot point is that the Congress Party has learnt no lesson from the past. It still deludes itself by thinking that it alone has the right to govern India.
All those who believe in democracy and healthy Centre-State relations must come together to defeat this arrogant mindset.
22 Jan, 2012