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The imposition of Hindi has always been the bone of contention in Tamil Nadu. The state’s disagreement over the use of Hindi is not something that happened in recent times but an issue that has prevailed in the state since the 1960s. Many political parties like the DMK first and the AIADMK later have also raised their voices against the use of Hindi and have also been slamming the Centre over this time to time. In 2017 when a couple of English and Tamil signboards were replaced with Hindi signage, political parties like the DMK, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) responded to it angrily and some signage was reportedly repainted. Even though the state has opposed the use of Hindi, they have always demanded Bharat Ratna for their respective leaders, an award that has Hindi inscribed on it.
After AIADMK demanded Bharat Ratna for former CM J Jayalalithaa, newly-crowned DMK chief MK Stalin urged the Government of India to confer the same award on his father and former DMK chief M Karunanidhi. MGR the erstwhile AIADMK chief was awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1987. Ironically, the two parties have protested against the use of Hindi language in the state and further criticised the BJP-led Central Government of imposing Hindi on the people of the state.
Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award in India. The award is conferred on an individual who has performed exceptionally in their fields, including Sachin Tendulkar for whom there was a slight rejigging of the eligibility rules. But should the very Hindi Bharat Ratna be conferred on people who couldn’t even tolerate Hindi on signboards along National Highways?
Dravidian politics is itself at the crossroads in the state and the increasing cosmopolitism of Tamil Nadu is one reason why the BJP fancies its chances in the state. The BJP, if it gives in for both Tamil Nadu leaders, will end up looking opportunist but with political equations unclear, and an impending Rajinikanth political entry, the party from Asoka Road, New Delhi seems to have very limited choices.
On the other hand, the BJP stands to gain a potential ally, whose absence can impair the rival alliance, if it awards the Bharat Ratna to M Karunanidhi.