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Posted at: Apr 16, 2018, 12:49 AM; last updated: Apr 16, 2018, 12:49 AM (IST)

Tamil Nadu on the edge

Lack of assurances amidst accumulated grievances
Tamil Nadu on the edge

TAMIL NADU is on edge after a prominent politician’s relative set himself alight on Friday over the Centre’s inability to form the Cauvery Management Board as part of a Supreme Court-brokered solution to share the waters of the Cauvery river with Karnataka. Protests have been gathering critical mass in Tamil Nadu ever since the Supreme Court reduced its share of Cauvery waters and gave more to Karnataka. In a balancing act, it asked the Centre to set up within six weeks the Cauvery Management Board to arbitrate disputes in the implementation of the order. The mandated deadline of six weeks passed by on March 29 and PM Modi had a foretaste of the seething anger in Tamil Nadu when he visited Chennai last month to inaugurate the Def Expo. The Centre is in an undeniably tough spot. The TN Government has no beef with the Modi government and the announcement of a board should help it and the BJP to shore up their political capital.  

But the BJP’s hands are tied because it is also a contender for the crown in neighbouring Karnataka, which is not just another state election. The winning party there will gain a psychological leg up for the 2019 general election. The announcement of the board, it is felt, could detract from the BJP’s electoral prospects in Karnataka. Clearly a tipping point has been reached with the law and order situation. Popular sentiment has not even permitted the staging of Indian Premier League matches in Tamil Nadu.

The BJP would do well to realise that TN’s loss of confidence did not happen overnight. Delhi’s inordinate accent on promoting Hindi grated on Tamilian ears who rate their language as ancient as Sanskrit. The last straw was Chennai’s perception that the new Finance Commission’s economic equalisation formula favoured North Indian states. The anger over Cauvery is actually the result of accumulated feeling that South was getting a rough deal in the sharing of resources. With no reassuring figure politically in charge, the Centre needs to restore calm in TN.  If the unrest is left unattended, Karnataka will also soon feel the heat. 

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