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India's Veteran Politician Karunanidhi Bids Adieu. #4 Traits That Made Him Invincible

Karunanidhi's life wasn't a bed of roses. His battles have much learning for the masses
India's Veteran Politician Karunanidhi Bids Adieu. #4 Traits That Made Him Invincible
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5 min read
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Thousands gathered outside Chennai’s Kauvery Hospital as their beloved Muthuvel Karunanidhi breathed his last at the age of 94 on August 7. Demise of the Dravidian movement strongman has left a void in the hearts of his millions of believers.

Following an 11-day battle with his health, the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) supremo bid the world adieu. Popularly referred to as Kalaignar, which if translated refers to an artist, will be remembered for his remarkable work in the fields of literature and poetry.

The veteran leader propagated deep-routed ideals in public consciousness against social malaises including untouchability and the regressive Indian caste system via his thought-provoking screenplays.

Remembered for serving five full terms as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Karunanidhi empowered Tamilians by steering Dravidian ideology. His charismatic personality made him a political magnate.

Powerful Influencer

The departed DMK patriarch found his feat for politics at a tender age of 14. Backed by the Dravidian movement propagated by his mentor, the reformist leader, Periyar EVR who aimed at creating a society that would enjoy equal rights for the backward classes.

His tryst with writing started just before he joined the Periyar movement for equal rights. Not every fresh school dropout can think of starting a handwritten newspaper but neither can everyone be Karunanidhi. The little genius then went on to earn fame through his screenplay in popular Tamil film ‘Parasakthi’.

Known for striking a chord with the masses through his robust hold on Tamil, Karunanidhi was competent in wording his values via scripts and screenplays. His writings garnered him mixed responses from the audience as some appreciated his anti-Hindu verses whereas others were profusely repulsed by his cultural ideas.

He might not have taken up acting as a career but Karunanidhi was a superstar in his own rights. His close association with Sivaji Ganesan steered a string of masterpieces that the duo created together, Karunanidhi through his eternal dialogues and Ganesan through delivery.

Having scripted for multiple Tamil films, Karunanidhi used his writings to express his beliefs. Being an ardent follower of the Dravidian ideologue, his works reflect the values of his life. Nonetheless, his strong point-of-view, critical views on Brahminism and hard-headed personality opened the doors to active politics for him.

People’s Person

As tweeted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Karunanidhi’s life “was devoted to the welfare of the poor and the marginalized.” Known as the people’s man, the departed DMK chief never held back from lending a helping hand to the ones in need.

His devotion was evident when he denoted his residence he owned since 1955 at upscale Gopalapuram in Chennai in 2010 to Annai Anjugam Trust for a hospital to treat the poor and unprivileged.

Apart from working towards equal rights for the backward classes, Karunanidhi harboured a soft spot for women rights. While his three marriages often became the point of debate for the Opposition, his efforts to towards women emancipation cannot be ignored.

On the political front, the leader introduced a number of economic and health schemes for women during his term as the CM. His efforts for bringing legislations to provide heritage share for women in the family property were highly appreciated by a large section of Tamil Nadu’s populace.

1970s was the time when women rarely became the part of decision-making bodies but Karunanidhi ensured 30 per cent reservation for women in government jobs, a step that paved the way for 40,000 women representatives by 2010.

Political Strategist

While many might remember the leader as an angry politician whose constant fight against the Centre and former AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa made regular headlines, it was the underlying hope in his heart to create a better society that brought a ray of hope for many. 

The late DMK supremo’s fight for freedom and democracy during the dark days of Emergency is often overshadowed. But that was a crucial turning point for Karunanidhi. As fundamental rights were suspended and Freedom of Press curbed, a few brave souls led opposition against Emergency. Karunanidhi was among them.

Being a strong-headed leader, he didn’t hesitate in parting ways with his long-time friend and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran when their ideologies started differing over time.

Fierce Fighter

With Karunanidhi’s rise as a strong political leader, his ambitions saw heights. But the roots remained Dravidian, a movement that started the impeccable journey of his life and also the movement that became the very reason for his rivalry with the six-time Tamil Nadu Prime Minister MG Ramachandran.

When long-time friends turned against each other, Tamil Nadu politics turned upside down and things moved in slow movie-like motion. The to and fro of power kept going even after Ramachandran’s demise in 1987 as his protégé Jayalalithaa had taken the helm to continue the battle. Till their last breath, both the leaders fought the political battle fiercely.

Has the sun dawned upon the in-fighting of the two biggest political parties in Tamil Nadu? Time will tell.

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