Karunanidhi passes away, leaves a vacuum  

As the torchbearer of Dravidian ideology, Karunanidhi upheld the principles of federalism and social justice. For about 50 years, Karunanidhi remained the epicentre of Tamil Nadu’s political discourse

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter
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Kavitha Muralidharan

Muthuvel Karunanidhi loved defying logic. Every time he was written off, Karunanidhi bounced back with admirable resilience. He led DMK through two darkest periods of its history – when the party was forced to be out of power for thirteen years when AIADMK’s MGR had ruled (between 1977-1989) and during Rajiv Gandhi assassination (1991) – yet Karunanidhi made sure the DMK remained afloat. For over half century, Karunanidhi remained the epicentre of Tamil Nadu’s political discourse.

Right through his life, Karunanidhi remained synonymous with struggles. As early as in 1936, he protested against a school management’s refusal to take him into class six since he was from ‘lower caste.’ A defiant Karunanidhi threatened to drown himself in a lake forcing the management to reconsider. Right through his end, Karunanidhi remained that spirited fighter.

The DMK not just lost a patriarch in his passing away the Tamil Nadu lost one of its tall Dravidian leaders.

At 95, and after almost two years of inactivity, Karunanidhi could still inspire thousands of cadres to gather in front of the Kauvery hospital where he was admitted – and raise animated slogans for days together asking him to ‘stand up and come’.

It has been a long and illustrious journey. Karunanidhi was barely fourteen when he was drawn to politics and only 29 when he laid his head on the railway track of Dalmiyapuram near Tiruchy demanding the name be changed to Kallakudi. The iconic protest made the young Karunanidhi a name to reckon with. For the next sixty five years or so, it would remain so.

Right through his life, Karunanidhi remained synonymous with struggles. As early as in 1936, he protested against a school management’s refusal to take him into class six since he was from ‘lower caste.’ A defiant Karunanidhi threatened to drown himself in a lake forcing the management to reconsider. Right through his end, Karunanidhi remained that spirited fighter.

A versatile leader with a keen interest in writing and films, Karunanidhi continued to write screenplays till almost he became inactive. He has written over hundred books and possibly the longest serial in any language in DMK’s official organMurasoli.

As the torchbearer of Dravidian ideology, Karunanidhi upheld the principles of federalism and social justice to the end. In 1974, Karunanidhi unfurled the national flag at St George Fort in Chennai – a right bestowed upon the Chief Ministers by the Central government particularly after a demand made by the DMK leader. From launching Slum Clearance Board to offering free electricity for the farmers, from enacting a law that gave women equal property rights to giving women reservation in jobs, Karunanidhi introduced several schemes that bettered many lives during his five terms as the Chief Minister. He also holds the unique record of not losing any election he had contested – even during the two darkest periods of the DMK.

Karunanidhi had his share of criticisms – he was faulted the most for ‘not doing enough’ to stop the final Eelam war in the neighbouring Sri Lanka in 2009 – yet he remains the last of leaders of an iconic movement that made social justice and rationalism a defining aspect of Tamil society.

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