Articles About ANNA

C.N.A. BREATHES WISDOM AND STATESMANSHIP               Back to Article Titles
- From E.K.Ramaswami

To many political and official observers in the capital, who knew nothing more of
Mr. C.N.Annaduari than as a brilliant orator in the Rajya Sabha, but a shy and reserved person outside and who expected him to be a passive listener in the high-level discussions on food, finance and graft between the Centre and the States held this week, the active and dominant role of the Chief Minister of Madras came as a great surprise.

For the first time in post-independence annals, the Union Cabinet Ministers were conferring with many Chief Ministers not belonging to the Congress. As the Chief Minister of Kerala, Mr.K.M.S. Namboodiripad, observed, a conference of the nature could not be expected to take decisions. But it was certainly fruitful. For it showed that it was possible for different party governments not only to co-exists, but also to co-operate in national interest, provided there was a spirit of give-and-take.

With men who had fought a bitter election with conflicting ideologies and dissenting opinions, sitting across the conference table, there was crisis. It was on such moments that Mr.Annadurai, wedged in between non-Congressmen and congressmen, to whom his party is less, his face a little flushed, his hands passing over his knees or his chin, suddenly went into action. There was no rhetoric, for which his Tamil speeches are famous, none of the appeal to party passion which marked the speeches of some Congress Ministers, nothing but the resistless logic of a clear mind that marshals its resources with ease and certainty. He dealt with the situations, as they arose honestly and plainly, taking a pragmatic approach. He had not even hesitation to disagree with the Chief Minister of Kerala on the ethics of taking PL-480 food-grains. As he himself mentioned later, he had no orthodox views like Mr.Namboodiripad. He had no ideological inhibitions in regard to continuance of zonal restrictions.

On the question of getting rice from Burma, again, Mr.Annaduarai was clear and unambiguous. He made it clear that what he was suggesting was not any kind of bilateral agreement by States with a foreign government. It was for the Centre to explore the possibility of getting compensation in kind from Burma for property left behind by Indians. He himself was aware of the difficulty that the Centre might come across when they approached the Burma Government because of the shortfall in the production of rice in Burma. But the he had answers ready for any objection.

During the discussions with Finance Minister, Mr.Annadurai, took the initiative to point out that, when the Centre tried to solve the problem of rise in the const of living which it had created, as far as their employees were concerned, the State Governments could not allow their employees to suffer. As long as price rise was not checked, the Centre must help the States to maintain parity with the Centre in regard to rates of dearness allowance.

When the States were reprimanded for having overdrafts with the Reserve Bank the Madras Chief Minister calmly pointed out in the midst of a heated discussion the overdrafts were not resorted to by States as an easy means of raising Plan resources. If half-way through the implementation of a project the Central allocation was cut off suddenly, the States were forced to go in for overdrafts. Talking of increase in non-development expenditure, the Chief Minister gently hinted at the need for avoiding expenditure on huge building for offices. In planning he underlined the fact that Madras had no prestige projects. They were all minor and utilitarian ones with no room for pruning. At the same time he appreciated the difficulties of the Centre. He did not lose his temper like some others when it was remarked on behalf of the Central Government that if all the States went on demanding more money, the only way seemed to be to allow every State to print its own currency.

It was on the language question that the Chief Minister of Madras found no room for compromise. He was unequivocal I his demand that there should be no imposition of Hindi directly or indirectly by backdoor methods. He appreciated the difficulties of the Union Government in amending the Constitution. At the same time, he drew attention to the needless provisions regarding Hindi being introduced in a Bill meant purely for safeguarding the interests of non-Hindi speaking people. He was not afraid of the badge of unpatriotism being pinned in his chest by protagonists of Hindi and declared categorically that he wanted English as the link language. Nobody need tell a Tamilian or Andhra or Gujerati to love his language and develop it. But the link language should be one which would be of equal advantage or disadvantage to all people.

These arguments, he advanced both before the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. He talked with the Prime Minister, Mrs.Indira Gandhi, as one who had not forgotten her sympathetic air dash to Madras during the language riots. He made it clear to the Home Minister that there should be no room for complaints from employees of the Central Government hailing from the South that they were either being forced to learn Hindi or not promoted for lack of knowledge of Hindi. Observers did not fail to notice that this time the attitude of the protagonists of Hindi, be they Ministers or Hindi, be they Ministers or Parliament members, was one of being on the defensive. At the meetings, Mr.Annadurai gently reminded the Ministers who spoke in Hindi that they were there to transact business, and not to assert their rights on language.

At a closed-door meeting with his party men in Parliament, he told them to conduct themselves with dignity and decorum. They should not join any campaign which smacked of cheap popularity or virtual ballying.

More than in the official meeting, which one could read only in the Press, it was in the social functions that Mr.Annadurai will furnish the historian with an attractive theme. Was he an accident or the architect or events all party leaders, including top Congressmen who attended reception given in his honour I Madras House by the leader of the D.M.K. party in Parliament, Mr.Anbalzhagan, agreed that, even if it was an accident, it was a happy accident. His humility won the heart of everyone. Barring Mr.Kamaraj, no other leader from the south was received the ovation Mr.Annadurai got from his countrymen at Palam airport on the day he arrived. The way he mixed with the high and low at the parties cutting jokes was in sharp contrast to his predecessor’s taciturn attitude.

The best engagement in Mr.Annaduari’s crowded programme was his calling on the congress president, Mr.Kamaraj, it is an open secret that no one regrets the D.M.K. having been forced to contest against Mr.Kamaraj than Mr.Annadurai, who has personal regard for the Congress President’s ability and honesty and appreciates the need for having a man from the South in a key position. It was a happy coincidence that a few minutes after Mr.Annadurai had been in conversation with Mr.Kamaraj, no less a person than the international peace-keeper, U. Thant, would join them, accompanied by a common friend in Mr.G.Parthasarathi, our representative at the U.N. As one wit remarked, it was a case of two opponents being at the conference table before the chairman arrived. A more cordial meeting of different ideologies could not be envisaged. The congress president complimented the D.M.K. Chief Minister on the way in which he was carrying out the procurement policy. He told him that, when he came to Madras, he would speak about it in public. And Mr.Annadurai assured the Congress president that he would not give up anything which was good for the State, merely because it had been started by the Congress. It was field day for Press Photographers too.
(THE HINDU, 14th April 1967)

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