Dakshina Pradesh, An Agglomeration Of Southern Indian States, Was A Non-Starter

(MENAFN- NewsIn) By T Ramakrishnan/The Hindu

Chennai, June 14: The idea of Dakshina Pradesh, comprising the States of Madras, Travancore-Cochin, and Mysore (with the addition of Kannada-speaking areas of Hyderabad and Bombay), was proposed when the States Reorganisation Commission was winding up its work in 1955 and formation of Karnataka and Kerala, on linguistic lines, was in sight.

The members of the States Reorganisation Commission, which held its first meeting in New Delhi on February 12, 1954, were Saiyid Fazl Ali, chairman; Sardar K.M. Panikkar, and Hriday Nath Kunzru.


Even when the proposal was in its initial stages, some leaders had reportedly claimed that the Dravidar Kazhagam, led by E.V. Ramasami (EVR), also known as Periyar, favoured it. But, in the middle of September 1955, EVR issued a statement of denial. At a meeting he organised on the Marina beach to condemn the idea, he said the Congress would break its promise to establish States on linguistic lines, if it tried to constitute Dakshina Pradesh.

“Such a step would also be detrimental to the economic progress of Tamil Nadu and development of Tamil language and culture,” he said, as reported by The Hindu on September 19, 1955.

Understanding Hailed

The idea gained momentum after the Congress Working Committee, at its meeting in New Delhi in January 1955, welcomed the understanding between West Bengal Chief Minister B.C. Roy and his Bihar counterpart Sri Krishna Sinha on the merger of the States. In fact, the seeds for Dakshina Pradesh were sown in August 1955 by Madras Mayor M.A. Chidambaram at a civic reception for the Mysore Chief Minister K. Hanumanthaiah, according to The Hindu dated February 2, 1956.

The visiting dignitary was guarded in his response: all south Indian States were working with team spirit and the people of these States were all citizens of one country, which was divided into different States for administrative convenience. By this time, Madras, the lower-riparian State of the Cauvery basin, began suffering from the diminished flows on account of the Krishnaraja Sagar Dam.

C. Subramaniam, Finance Minister and No. 2 in the Kamaraj Cabinet, in his memoir (Hand of Destiny, Volume I), credits Roy with taking the initiative of consulting leaders and coming up with a proposal that instead of linguistic States, the country be divided into five or six large States.

C. Rajagopalachari, or Rajaji, who had all along opposed the concept of States on linguistic lines, contended that the“mix of languages and cultures” had been Madras' strength and if divided on the basis of language, the province,“once so big and important and progressive, will hereafter grow narrow-minded and intensely anti-culture”, according to The Rajaji Story (1937-72) by Rajmohan Gandhi. In Rajaji's scheme, Dakshina Pradesh included Telugu-speaking areas too.

However, as pointed out in Anna (a biography of C.N. Annadurai), authored by R. Kannan, EVR and Annadurai criticised the idea and called it a“mixture”. Having been identified in those years as a member of the Rajaji camp, Subramaniam was one of the votaries of the concept. He had even seconded a resolution, proposed by G.B. Pant, at a session of the All India Congress Committee. According to Subramaniam, Kamaraj, though not impressed with the idea, told him that he had no objection to his seconding the resolution.

Apart from Hanumanthaiah, Subramaniam contacted P. Govinda Menon, Chief Minister of Travancore-Cochin, and both“showed a keen interest”. He also had a“detailed discussion” with Kamaraj and Union Minister T.T. Krishnamachari, perceived to be a member of the Kamaraj camp. His impression was that Kamaraj too had favoured the idea later.

But, Kamaraj: Oru Sagaptham, a biography written by Congress leader A. Gopanna, says Kamaraj's Cabinet Ministers R. Venkataraman and M. Bakthavatsalam opposed the concept.

Solution to disputes

At the same time, Congress leaders of Mysore M.V. Krishnappa, who was the Deputy Minister of Food in the Union government (who later became the Revenue Minister of Karnataka), and H.C. Dasappa, a Rajya Sabha member, supported the idea and explained its benefits. They did point out that inter-State disputes would“automatically solve themselves”, according to a report of The Hindu on January 31, 1956.

For two days in February 1956, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru met the Chief Ministers of Madras, Mysore, and Travancore-Cochin and held discussions in Bengaluru. His Cabinet colleagues Krishnamachari and K.C. Reddy and Congress general secretary K.P. Madhavan Nair, too, took part in the deliberations. In addition to Kamaraj, Madras was represented by Subramaniam and Bakthavatsalam. Krishnamachari hosted a party for the participants at the Bangalore Palace. At the party, Nehru, said to be keen on the proposal, had discussed the matter with Kamaraj and Madhavan Nair.

Telegram from EVR

While the Madras Chief Minister was in Bengaluru, he received a telegram from EVR, which said,“Dakshina Pradesh formation a life and death matter for Tamilians. It will be also a suicide for you and all.”

Eventually, no consensus was reached. Apparently, even on the first day of the negotiations, Subramaniam was quick enough to understand the irreconcilable positions of the leaders. When a reporter asked him whether the talks would continue for the second day, he shot back,“talks about what?” reported The Hindu on February 2, 1956.

Ten days later, the AICC met in Amritsar and“unanimously” adopted a resolution, supporting the formation of bilingual States wherever possible and stating that unilingualism should not be made a fetish, said a report in The Hindu on February 13, 1956.

In the meantime, a general strike was called by opponents of the concept in Tamil Nadu. Kamaraj assured the people that his government did not commit itself to any scheme of integration. He also dismissed the concept, saying public opinion in the State was“not in its favour”. In his memoir, Subramaniam says Kamaraj changed his mind because of EVR's telegram, which he thought conveyed the message that“it would be the end of his leadership in the State as people from other States would dominate Tamilians”.

Interestingly, a row broke out over posters supposedly in the name of the BJP, during the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. The posters described Tamil Nadu as Dakshina Pradesh. But the BJP denied having brought them out.




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