With CM Palaniswami's loud opposition to NEP, is the AIADMK pulling out of 'saffron embrace'?

He said the three-language formula was “sad” and “disappointing”

EPS claims victory in Cauvery dispute, releases water from Mettur dam [File] Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami | PTI

At a time when the opposition DMK and educationists in Tamil Nadu are up in the arms against the three-language formula in the centre’s New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami took exception to the actions by the BJP-led Central government. He asserted that Tamil Nadu will continue with the two-language formula.

In a statement, Palaniswami said that the three-language formula announced by the NDA government in Delhi was “sad” and “disappointing” and said the state governments should be allowed to implement the language formulas in line with their policies. Requesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider the proposal, Palaniswami noted that Tamil Nadu has been following the two-language formula of English and Tamil for the past several decades, and has stonewalled every move to impose Hindi or any other language in the state.

Recalling the statements of former chief minister C.N. Annadurai, M.G. Ramachandran and J. Jayalalithaa, he said Tamil Nadu has been following the two-language formula for the past 80 years. “Despite the NEP released by the Centre containing a three-language formula, the government that is guided by Amma [Jayalalithaa] will never allow this, and will continue to follow the existing two-language policy,” Palaniswami said in the statement.

In the statement, he noted that the then chief minister Annadurai, in 1968, had brought the resolution for a two-language formula—by including Tamil, English, and removing Hindi from the curriculum—in the assembly. “In 1986, the then chief minister MGR had passed another resolution in the assembly reaffirming the two-language formula. Our Amma also maintained that Hindi should not be imposed on non-Hindi speaking states,” he pointed out.

Later in the day, on Monday, the Palaniswami-led AIADMK government appointed a high-powered committee to study all other aspects of NEP, 2020, and submit its report. Based on this report, the state government will convey its views to the Centre.

Incidentally, Tamil Nadu became the first state to reject the three-language formula proposed in NEP 2020. With this statement, Palaniswami once again took to asserting himself as a powerful leader of the state. Though his statements and decisions come after sustained opposition pressure, Palaniswami, according to political observers, is trying hard to position himself as a strong leader capable of taking on DMK and Stalin.

In the first week of May, he wrote a long letter to Prime Minister Modi reiterating that Tamil Nadu was committed to providing free electricity supply to farmers and asked him to place the amendments in the Electricity Act in abeyance. A few days before came a letter to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, saying that the state government might be able to arrange quarantine facilities for passengers sent through special Shramik trains. And most recently came his statement condemning miscreants draping a saffron shawl on an MGR statue in Puducherry. He said that “Tamils would not accept the conspiracy of a few people to disturb national integration and unity only for survival in vote bank politics.” To everyone’s surprise, his government took action against a Bharat Sena member in Coimbatore for splashing saffron paint on Periyar statue. A 21-year old youth was detained under National Security Act (NSA).

Palaniswami, with less than one year for the state assembly elections, has chosen to send a strong message to his once-friendly ally BJP and the Sangh Parivar affiliates. Sources in the ruling party say that the AIADMK has prepared to move out of the BJP alliance in the upcoming 2021 elections. “We lost in 2019 only because of the BJP,” a senior minister told THE WEEK. He also said that recent closed meetings among the party officebearers saw strong opinions against having BJP in the alliance.

But, when asked how Palaniswami would dare to oppose the BJP leadership in Delhi, the minister said that he was just registering his protest against NDA’s policies and was not opposing Modi. He pointed out that the intention was to alienate the state BJP, so that the cordial electoral relationship doesn’t continue. But, simultaneously, the chief minister will not get into a strong confrontation against BJP’s top bosses.