Karunanidhi joined Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam as a disciple of the Dravidian ideology but his unwavering faith has made him synonymous to the movement.
On Tuesday, the last fighter of Dravidian movement, M Karunanidhi departed the earth. Though he took away the hopes and dreams of Dravidian ideology with him, Karunanidhi left behind a long legacy of the Dravidian principles and teachings sprawling over almost six decades. The master of creating headlines, an unapologetic self-proclaimed atheist, Kalaignar for the Tamilians and Thalaivar for the DMK Cadre, Muthuvel Karunanidhi joined Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam as a disciple of the Dravidian ideology but his unwavering faith in the ideology and his mentors have made him synonymous to the movement. His devotion towards icons Periyar EV Ramasamy and CN Annadurai was unquestionable, so much so that the former CM of Tamil Nadu even called Kalaignar his soul.
For Anna, Karunanidhi was more than his follower. For Karunanidhi, Anna was more than a Guru. No party meeting or public speech has been made by him without mentioning Anna. In the dawning days of DMK, Karunanidhi was the man Friday of Annadurai. He also led the Kallakudi protest– the Anti-Hindi imposition agitation by DMK that made national headlines. The party spokesperson Manuraj Shunmugasundaram recalls, “Anna turned to Karunanidhi at crucial moments during the early days of the DMK. When the fledgeling party’s Trichy unit was rife with in-fighting, Anna refused to accept any speaking invitations and deputed Karunanidhi to Trichy. However, instead of shying away, Karunanidhi accepted the challenge. He built the party unit from grassroots level and eventually, the Trichy unit became a lynchpin of the party.” Annadurai trusted Kalaignar so much that after the death of the former leader, he was unanimously selected as successor.
In his political career spanning across almost 60 years, he brushed shoulders with his bitter political rivals MGR and Jayalalitha. The story behind once friend turning foe is quite amusing. It was Karunanidhi who gave the Tamil Cinema its two superstars: Shivaji Ganesan and M Ramachandran. However, the friendship between Kalaignar and MGR was beyond cinema. It was Karunanidhi who brought MGR to the DMK from Congress fold. Coming from the glamour world, initially, MGR had no political ambitions. He even supported Kalaignar as the CM candidate after the demise of Annadurai. But eventually, a crack started appearing in the friendship.
The wedge between the two widened when The DMK suspended MGR on October 10, and four days later expelled him when he refused to express regret. MGR went on to establish ADMK which saw an era of virulent political war between the two parties. The mud-slinging in the ego clash had gone to a level where Kalaignar described the MGR administration as a “Jester Government”. MGR hit back calling Karunanidhi “an evil force”. His allegation that Kalaignar was “unclean” invited a Sarkaria probe.
Despite all the political confrontation, the two showed much bonhomie within the State Assembly. When MGR took seriously ill in October 1984, Kalaignar – an atheist penned an open letter titled ‘I Too Am Offering Prayers’. When MGR breathed his last on 24 December 1987 he again wrote a courteous condolence message that was a recap of their journey from stage-friends to political rivals.
After MGR, it was Jayalalitha who rose to prominence in Tamil Nadu politics. For as long as they both lived, they were and they will be remembered for their fierce rivalry that shaped the Tamil Nadu politics since then. Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha were born out of same ideology but were opposing forces when it came to politics. But despite all the enmity when Jayalalitha died in 2016, the bedridden Karunanidhi paid a gregarious tribute. “I offer deep condolences on the passing away of Jayalalithaa. Wishes of lakhs of her followers will make her immortal,” He said.
Karunanidhi outlived all his contemporary stalwarts. The state and its polity was shaped by them, for Tamil Nadu politics’ Dravidian era begins with Annadurai and ends with Karunanidhi. You cannot recall Annadurai without mentioning Karunanidhi. Nor can you recall Karunanidhi without MGR and Jayalalitha. The death of these leaders dimmed the light of fervent Dravidian movement. Dedicated to the ideology, the state follows an unwritten norm of burying the Dravidian leaders at Marina– a place which symbolizes a setting sun. All these leaders received due respect in this regard. It is unfortunate that DMK had to fight the AIADMK government for the space for last Dravidian leader’s burial at such an iconic place. But now that the court has granted the permission for Karunanidhi’s burial at Marina, we can say,
The Dravidian sun has set over Tamil Nadu.
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