NEW DELHI: In a "revolution" of sorts, former chief minister Jayaram Jayalalitha will address a rally in Uttar Pradesh in Hindi on Sunday to become the first top Tamil Nadu leader to bridge the north-south language divide.
Jayalalitha's speech in the town of Bareilly in the company of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and others will mark a major leap from those tumultuous times when Tamil Nadu rose in frenzy against Hindi.
Although Jayalalitha is fluent in Hindi besides half a dozen other languages, including English, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada, no political leader of repute from Tamil Nadu has addressed a rally in the Hindi heartland.
"It is a revolution," said K. Malaisamy, a Rajya Sabha member of Jayalalitha's AIADMK party.
"It goes to our leader's credit that she has been invited to address the people in Uttar Pradesh and it is also to the credit of Tamil Nadu and Tamil people," Malaisamy said.
The Sunday meeting in Bareilly, about 250 km from here, will bring together Jayalalitha, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) chief Om Prakash Chautala, Asom Gana Parishad leader Brindaban Goswami and former external affairs minister K. Natwar Singh.
All of them, mostly regional satraps, are using the Uttar Pradesh electoral battle that began on Saturday to flex their muscles ahead of the next parliamentary elections due in two years.
But it will mark a watershed in India's polity where the Hindi-Tamil clash of the 1960s - also the decade when the DMK officially gave up its separatist plank - has given way to growing assimilation of different ethnic groups in a larger federal entity despite continuing hiccups.
Another AIADMK leader, who did not want to be identified, said that Jayalalitha's speech Sunday is bound to have a positive impact on Tamil Nadu and the country as a whole.
"My personal view is that some of us who come out of Tamil Nadu with only Tamil and English in our language kitty find it difficult to get ahead because we just don't know Hindi," said the leader.
"It is good in today's age to have a broad outlook, and she has that. She is already popular, and this will make her nationally more popular. It is true that there are Tamil speaking politicians in national parties," the AIADMK leader said.
"But for a prominent leader of a Dravidian party to speak in Hindi and that too in Hindi heartland, that is something."
Malaisamy, a retired IAS officer who joined AIADMK in 1998, said he knew of instances when Jayalalitha skillfully used her multiple language skills to win over people.
"I remember when Jayalalitha, as the Tamil Nadu chief minister, was speaking at a meeting in Delhi also attended by leaders from Andhra Pradesh. She spoke in English but some people from Andhra Pradesh had problems understanding her. She immediately switched over to Telugu and gained their affection," he said.
On Sunday, Jayalalitha, whose relations are soured with both the Congress and BJP, will fly out of Chennai to New Delhi and then take a helicopter to Bareilly. After the public rally, she will return to Chennai via New Delhi.
Further, Jayalalitha will address another election rally in Allahabad April 12, also in the company of Mulayam Singh Yadav, urging the people of the state to vote for his Samajwadi Party in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
The AIADMK, Samajwadi Party, AGP, INLD and TDP are aiming their guns at Congress over such issues as shooting prices of essential commodities and continuing suicides of debt-ridden farmers to build a national front.
These parties are also eager to play a larger role in the next presidential elections.