The run-up to the Thevar Jayanthi celebrations in Tamil Nadu is marked with frenzy and fervor. Most of the political parties (except the Communists, Viduthalai Chiruthai Katchi (VCK), Islamic & Christian outfits and Maoists) vie with one another to express their respect, adoration and obeisance to late Ukkirapandi Muthuramalinga Thevar (October 30, 1908-30 October 1963) a great freedom fighter from Madurai who was also a close confidante of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. For nationalists in Tamil Nadu, Thevar is a personal pride. It is not known whether any other political leader has been offered the kind of respect and awe Muthuramalinga Thevar commanded.
The year 2013 saw the then chief minister J Jayalalithaa offering a gold armor weighing 15 kg for decorating the bust of Thevar installed at Madurai. It will not be an exaggeration to state that Thevar was a living legend who strode the political landscape of Tamil Nadu like a colossus.
Governments of the day which ruled Tamil Nadu from time to time have installed one or two statues of Thevar at Chennai and at Madurai. His was a unique life, with the same birth and death anniversaries. While modern-day politicians in Tamil Nadu were vying with one another to name public places, parks, memorials after them, it is sad that a legend like Thevar does not have any memorials named after him.
Dr. Subramanian Swamy, Senior BJP leader and former Union Minister for Law and Commerce, has been demanding that the Madurai International Airport be named after Muthuramalinga Thevar. Dr. Swamy’s commitment to this mission, to name the airport after Thevar, arises out of the commitment he made to the electorate of Madurai when he contested the Lok Sabha election from there in 1998. Unlike other politicians, Dr. Swamy is not a run-of-the-mill politician who promise something and forgets the same within seconds.
Since 1998, Dr Swamy has been consistently trying to get the Madurai Airport renamed as Muthuramalinga Thevar International Airport. But all his efforts have been stonewalled by certain powers that be. While leaders of both the AIADMK and the DMK vie with one another to convince the general public of Tamil Nadu about their unflinching devotion to the memories of Thevar, they become pusillanimous the moment they come across the demand for renaming the Madurai airport after Thevar.
The AIADK which has been ruling Tamil Nadu continuously since 2011 has not done anything to perpetuate the memory of Thevar. Dr Swamy’s dedication in this matter has brought to light certain realities which expose the double-standard and hypocrisy of the AIADMK politicians. While it is foolish to expect anything from the DMK in this regard, the AIADMK which swears by the name of Thevar on every occasion has done nothing in this regard.
According to central government’s laws regarding the naming of public places after political leaders, the concerned State government should initiate a proposal to the Centre suggesting/ proposing any such move. Dr. Swamy had written to the union ministry of civil aviation regarding the renaming of Madurai Airport as Muthuramalinga Thevar International Airport. The answer he got from the ministry of civil aviation should be a revelation to the people of Tamil Nadu. The union government wrote to the State government asking it about its stance on the issue. The reply furnished by the Government of Tamil Nadu to the ministry of civil aviation is shocking as well as saddening.
“State Government of Tamil Nadu was asked to give their comments in the matter. They have taken a policy decision as to the effect that no public buildings, places and corporations in Tamil Nadu will be named after any political leaders of past and present,” said the civil aviation ministry in their reply to Dr Swamy’s query in this regard.
A senior political leader close to both Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam told Team PGurus that the he was not aware whether the Tamil Nadu government had requested the union government to rename the Madurai Airport after Thevar.
The reply given by the Tamil Nadu government to the Central Government that there was a policy decision that no public buildings, places and corporations in the State will be named after political leaders is a white lie. The public library at Kotturpuram in Chennai, built by spending hundreds of crores of rupees has been named Anna Centenary Library in 2010.
Former chief minister J Jayalalithaa boycotted a function held at Chennai Airport in 2013 as a mark of protest against the Central government’s refusal to rename the second terminal of the domestic airport as MGR Airport. She had issued a statement on the day the then vice president Hamid Ansari dedicated the new airport terminal to the nation. (http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/cm-boycotts-function/article4367652.ece)
The DMK and the AIADMK governments are vying with one another in naming projects, buildings and other public places after leaders of their choices. Karunanidhi, while he was the Chief Minister, went to the extent of naming a health insurance scheme after himself. Dr. Kalaignar Health Insurance Scheme launched by Karunanithi was wound up by Jalalalalithaa when she came to power to 2011 and relaunched the same as Amma Health Scheme!
For people like Panneerselvam and Palaniswamy, the memories of Muthuramalinga Thevar are something that they use only at the time of elections to harness the votes belonging to the Thevar community. The patriotic and fierce Thevar community will not forget this slight.