Spontaneous struggles erupting in Tamil Nadu have lessons for Kerala

Peaceful protests by the masses, with no short-term personal gains, are transforming the personality of political leaders like OPS.

When spontaneous struggles erupt in our neighbouring State, some of us get neighbours’ envy. In Kerala’s social media, discussion groups and even in speeches of some political leaders, Paneerselvam has become the alter name for meek acceptance and pliant unquestioning behaviour. Time has come to correct this mistake. O Panneerselvam, or Annan OPS, as he is called by followers, has stood up and spoken out, though with theatrical trappings like communicating with the spirit of his late leader. It is another matter whether he has the tacit or overt support of the powers-that-be at the Centre. The banner of revolt he raised has brought an important question into public domain – when the decision of MLAs or representatives of the people, whether coerced, voluntary or driven by motives of personal aggrandisement is at variance with dominant public opinion, what is the remedy?

Constituents are searching for their representatives, who were herded into luxury buses and taken to some luxurious but undisclosed destination. There is palpable anger in social media reactions. Be that as it may, the issue here is neighbour’s envy. We have envied Tamil Nadu for the efficient implementation of welfare measures and the accommodative spirit in accepting a leader of Kerala origins, but not the development model where despotism and welfare, albeit materialistic, have become strange bedfellows. Our envy and their pride are on the pan-State democratic spirit, visible across the horizon of Tamil Nadu. Be it Jellikkattu or MLAs foisting/ or being foisted a leader against the perceived public opinion, it is clear that clouds of fear are dissipating after the demise of the titan, who strode like a colossus over the State polity with zero tolerance to any dissenting voice.

In Kerala, we are witnessing student agitations against enclaves of serfdom in the shape of professional colleges. We have had a lot of switch-on and switch-off agitations with the remote button in the hands of indirect stakeholders. Now, direct stakeholders organise spontaneous protests and political parties arrive at the scene after the momentum is gathered. The new scenario, described ‘post ideological’ by political scientist Neera Chandoke is enormously facilitated by social media. As actor Kamal Hasan said, people need not be led, they will lead. OPS phenomenon is the creation of this. Kerala’s commentators, who used the term Panneerselvam to personify implicit subjugation, should now reinvent this. In agitations against malpractices and to bring sunlight to the system, we need to imbibe the neighbours’ spirit witnessed on Marina beach recently, rather than view it with envy. Peaceful protests by the masses, with no short-term personal gains, are transforming the personality of political leaders like OPS. May the tribe of genuine and peaceful protestors grow and act as a firewall for our democracy.

(Author is a former IT Commissioner).

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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