Chennai, Aug 7: Muthuvel Karunanidhi was one of the last links to the Dravidian movement that ushered in the rise of backward classes in politics and the end of Congress rule in Tamil Nadu five decades ago on the plank of social justice.
A five-time Chief Minister, the 94-year-old Karunanidhi, who strode the public life of Tamil Nadu like a colossus, also played a key role in national politics when he aligned with Indira Gandhi in 1971 and reaped rich rewards in elections.
But he staunchly opposed the Emergency of 1975-77 during which his government was dismissed on corruption charges. He was banished to the opposition ranks till the death of his friend-turned-foe and iconic film hero M.G. Ramachandran or MGR in December 1987.
Under Karunanidhi, the DMK occupied a prime position in the UPA governments at the Centre in 2004 and 2009 and earlier in the NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpyee, an alignment that surprised many given the party’s Dravidian moorings.
He was a wily politician who succeeded his mentor C.N. Annadurai or ‘Anna’ as Chief Minister in 1969 and kept a stranglehold on the party and government. He remained the President of the DMK for nearly 50 years, a rare feat in any democratic country.
Always sporting dark glasses, which became his trademark identity, and in later years a yellow stole, which critics said was against the atheism he preached.
With the death of his arch rival J. Jayalalithaa in 2016 and his departure now, Tamil Nadu is left with a void.
Born in Tirukkuvalai in the erstwhile Thanjavur district on June 3, 1924, Karunanidhi was a multifaceted personality — journalist, playwright, script writer — whose fiery dialogues as an iconoclast in films unleashed changes in Tamil Nadu’s social scene. He joined the Dravidian movement as a teenager under the tutelage of the late social reformer ‘Periyar’ E.V. Ramasamy and Anna.
‘Kalaignar’, as Karunanidhi was called for his proficiency in arts and literature, fashioned theatre and cinema in a way that gave a fillip to the Dravidian movement and the rise of DMK as a major pole in Tamil Nadu.
Karunanidhi’s political fortunes rose when Anna broke away from the DK to float the DMK in 1949. The box office hit of Tamil movie ‘Parasakthi’ for which he wrote the script and a ‘rail roko’ agitation in Kallakudi near Tiruchirapalli made him known throughout the state.
He ascended to the DMK throne and the Chief Ministership following the death of party founder Annadurai in 1969.
Karunanidhi had the party in his strong grip till the end despite presiding over two major splits and being out of power continuously between 1977 and 1989.
Born in a poor Isai Vellalar (a backward caste) family, he was named Dakshinamurthy by his god-fearing parents Muthuvel and Anjugam. He later changed that to Karunanidhi, a Tamil name shorn of any Brahminical or Sanskrit tinge. (IANS)