The Dravidian Free Pass: A Tale Of Two Finance Ministers

K Balakumar

Jun 13, 2024, 05:26 PM | Updated Jun 14, 2024, 01:30 PM IST

Palanivel Thiaga Rajan and Nirmala Sitharaman.
Palanivel Thiaga Rajan and Nirmala Sitharaman.
  • The evidently different responses of the Dravidian sections to the seeming snobbery of Nirmala Sitharaman and Palanivel Thiaga Rajan are a dead give-away of the nasty casteism and misogyny at play.
  • A few days back, a short clip of one of the so-called journalists who owes implicit obedience to the Dravidian sections emerged, and in that he is shown to be talking about the possible cabinet formation of the INDI Alliance bloc.

    Evidently, it was a recording of some programme done before the election results were out on 4 June. Anyway, he suggests in that video that there was the likelihood of the INDI group forming the government and that Tamil Nadu's Palanivel Thiaga Rajan (along with former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan) is the frontrunner for the post of the Union finance minister.

    Forget the thigh-slapping comedy of a ministerial team from INDI, the staggering irony of that clip is that the name he threw most vociferously as a financial wizard isn't even the finance minister of Tamil Nadu. If anything, PTR, as he is generally called, was unceremoniously dumped from the finance department in May 2023.

    It may be recalled that PTR was dumped to the relatively insignificant IT department after  two audio tapes emerged in which he  purportedly shames the ruling party & its first family.

    In the first, a voice, which is believed to be that of PTR's, claims that Stalin's son Udayanidhi, at present a minister, and son-in-law Sabareesan had amassed Rs 30,000 crore in just about a year.

    In the other, the voice praises the BJP's kind of one-man-one-post, and criticises the DMK for not following the same.

    PTR’s Snobbery Is Kosher

    PTR claimed that the tapes were doctored, but nevertheless he was demoted in a ministerial shake-up in Tamil Nadu (almost confirming that the words in that leaked tape had caused havoc in the ruling dispensation in the state.)

    But even though he was unceremoniously pushed out of the pivotal department, the Dravidian sections have been building him up as some sort of whiz of the economy.

    Of course, PTR is well read and educationally qualified and has had stints as an investment banker, which then again, he never forgets to mention in most of his conversations or speeches.

    The man has a tendency to showboat, which is exactly not a crime. But he also drops names incessantly and comes across as being snooty in most of his exchanges on stage or in social media.

    PTR, in spirit, is a veritable replica of the kind of persons who grouped up and floated the Justice Party, the precursor to the Dravidian offshoot. Educated, moneyed, privileged, snobbish but yet feeling himself to be a victim (of the notional Brahminical forces).

    Anyway, in the make-believe world of Dravidians, disdainful airs and graces are usually frowned upon. But interestingly the one PTR exudes somehow gets a free pass of sorts, which is in contradistinction to the treatment that Nirmala Sitharaman, the real Finance Minister of the country, has been receiving.

    But Sitharaman’s Snootiness Is Unacceptable 

    The post of the finance minister is, by its very nature, polarising. Everyone has an opinion as to how the ministry should function, and what should be taxed and what should not be.

    Everyone, on the basis of the fact that they earn and spend, becomes a financial expert in the country. So that makes the job of Sitharaman tough.

    But she, it should be said, has not made things any easier for herself with an approach that is easy to be labelled as highhanded and condescending.

    During her speeches and interactions with the press, Sitharaman comes across as being brusque and curt. This from anyone would be frowned upon, but it becomes even more glaring when it comes from a person who is seen to be taking some part of your money (tax).

    Sitharaman obviously doesn't suffer fools easily. That shows evidently. But in a society like ours, usually such people are branded arrogant. In a sense, it is understandable. But the point is when a PTR exhibits a similar attitude it is deemed as some sort of reflection of his erudition, but Sitharaman is quickly stamped as uppity.

    Sitharaman is easily put down as a casteist haughtiness. P Chidamabaram too was seen as being supercilious. But seldom it was linked to his land-owning, privileged caste. Same behaviour, but different summarisation. 

    It Always Boils Down To Caste In Tamil Nadu

    Pray why?

    In Tamil Nadu, it is always obvious. She being a Brahmin invites all the bile-filled scorn. Her performance as the Finance Minister is actually irrelevant to the scheme of things. Illuminatingly, the other Union minister towards whom derision is dispatched is S Jaishankar. Needless to check his caste.

    In the last few days with both Sitharaman and Jaishankar retaining the ministerial posts, the whooping cry of mockery is renting the air in Tamil Nadu.

    All manner of memes are out jeering their retention. Criticism of keeping them in the same post is understandable. That is what politics is all about.

    But the overt suggestion that Sitharaman and Jaishankar are holding on as ministers because of their caste is just a venomous idea.

    The Dravidian sections, which were going hammer and tongs against K Annamalai and Tamilisai till the day of results, are now shedding tears for them not getting a ministerial berth.

    It is laughably sham as it only exposes the underlying bigoted casteism of the Dravidians. L Murugan, who is a Dalit, also continues to be a minister. But that fact doesn't matter to the Dravidians who will go to any length to besmirch anyone who happens to be a Brahmin (especially with Tamil lineage). The hatred is that deep-seated.

    Discuss Sitharaman's performance as a minister by all means. Evaluate her work most critically. Scrutinise the numbers her ministry comes up with. Be polemical about Jaishankar’s work. Debate and dissect the foreign policy. They should always be. But if the animadversion is on the basis of their caste, which is unfortunately the case in Tamil Nadu, then be prepared to be called out.

    Yes, for all those who want to hear, PTR’s attitude may have more casteist underpinnings to it.

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