CHENNAI: The principal opposition party in Tamil Nadu, DMK, is reviving the state autonomy plank in a spirited manner about five decades after the late Dravidian leader CN Annadurai led the chorus for delegation of more powers to states by holding a conference in Chennai in 1968. As the Centre is seemingly spreading its tentacles in several areas, particularly education and finance, restricting the powers of the state governments, DMK working president MK Stalin has sensed it is the opportune time to rake up the issue by rallying all opposition parties ahead of the general elections.
The State autonomy conference, scheduled to be held in Chennai on August 30, will provide a platform for the opposition parties, both national and regional, to launch a spirited movement to regain the powers of the states. “We have invited national leaders, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, CPM general secretary Sitharam Yechury, for the conference. Leaders of the CPI, BSP, SP and RJD have also been invited to participate in the event,” DMK MP RS Bharathi told Express. “Since the Centre is trying to usurp the powers of the states, we think this is the right time to up the ante for protecting the rights of states,” he added.
All non-BJP Chief Ministers, including Pinarayai Vijayan (Kerala), K Chandrasekhar Rao (Telangana), N Chandrababu Naidu (Andra Pradesh), Nitish Kumar (Bihar), HD Kumaraswamy (Karnataka), Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi) and Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal) have also been invited to the event.
DMK was in the forefront in raising voice for protecting the rights of states and clamouring for more administrative and financial powers. Consequent to the state autonomy conference chaired by the late Chief Minister, Annadurai, in 1968, M Karunanidhi, who inherited the state power from him, constituted the Rajamannar Committee in 1969 to go into the Centre-State relations.
Following Annadurai and Karunanidhi’s initiatives, states including Jammu and Kashmir and Andra Pradesh began to clamour for safeguarding the interests of states, recalled ‘Sangoli’ S Thirunavukkarasu, a Dravidian historian. Talking to Express, he said, “There must be a roadmap to take forward the movement for retrieving the rights of the states and protecting their interests because they come under tremendous pressure from the Centre now.”
“All opposition parties should unite and make continuous and concerted efforts to achieve what they are aiming for,” Thirunavukkarasu stressed. State autonomy has been part of the agenda of political parties in Tamil Nadu for long. Last year, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi had organised a conference to discuss the topic. Vaiko’s MDMK also held a similar event decades ago.
Imposition of NEET for screening students for medical education, the recent attempt to abolish the UGC by replacing it with a higher education commission and slashing Central funds under various heads are considered by the leaders as attacks on the autonomy of the states.