Karunanidhi memorial is a psychological, political boost for DMK

The combination of the Anna and Kalaignar legacy would project DMK as the inheritor of Dravidian legacy, and overshadow MGR and Jayalalithaa samadhis. This was at the crux of the row

Photo: R. Rangaraj
Photo: R. Rangaraj

R Rangaraj

The Madras High Court decision to allow the Karunanidhi Memorial on the Marina Beach, next to the Anna Memorial is a huge psychological and political victory for DMK in the battle with AIADMK, which commenced 46 years ago from the time actor MGR formed ADMK after his ouster from the DMK.

The row over the memorial for Karunanidhi erupted on August 7 night soon after the 94-year-old DMK patriarch’s death with the AIADMK government announcing that the memorial would not be allowed on Marina as requested by DMK but on a two-acre site near the Gandhi Mandapam at Guindy, elsewhere in Chennai.

The controversy was actually a case of shadow-boxing over which party can claim the Dravidian/Annadurai legacy — the DMK or the AIADMK. This was actually the continuation of a 46-year-old battle between the two parties over who was the real follower of Annadurai, the founder of the DMK and former chief minister.

In 1972, MGR named his party as the Anna DMK and unfurled the party flag with a photo of Anna in it. Karunanidhi countered him by saying that the DMK was founded by Anna, and that it was the real Dravidian party.

Photo: R. Rangaraj
Photo: R. Rangaraj
Anna and Periyar

While DMK projected the triumvirate of Periyar, Anna and Karunanidhi in all party hoardings and banners, the AIADMK showcased the triumvirate of Periyar, Anna and MGR initially, and later the triumvirate of Anna, MGR and Jayalalithaa. The Marina was projected by the AIADMK as a miniature of this AIADMK triumvirate.

Lakhs of people visit the samadhis of the triumvirate every month. Providing the Kalaignar memorial at Marina, that too next to the Anna memorial, would alter the AIADMK projection as the inheritor of the Dravidian /Anna legacy.

Therefore, the AIADMK didn’t want the political equation to be disturbed, that too in favour of its arch rival, the DMK.

The combination of the Anna and Kalaignar legacy would project the DMK as the inheritor of the Dravidian/Anna legacy, and overshadow the MGR and Jayalalithaa samadhis. This was at the crux of the row.

Karunanidhi had two wishes, as expressed by him: He hoped that a Tamil Eelam would be formed; second, he wished to be buried at a spot next to Anna. The Eelam dream has vanished. The DMK hoped that at least his second wish was fulfilled, a Kalaignar memorial next to the Anna memorial. That was why, the DMK leaders met Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami on August 7 evening and sought approval for a Kalaignar Memorial on the Marina, next to the Anna Memorial.

As the response of the CM was non-committal, the DMK leaders spoke to the press about the lack of response to their demand. On August 7 evening, the chief secretary issued a press release that the memorial would be allowed only near Gandhi Mandapam and not on the Marina. This triggered violent protests by a section of DMK cadres.

Photo: R. Rangaraj
Photo: R. Rangaraj
Karunanidhi with Anna and MGR

The DMK leadership decided to challenge this order and moved the Madras High Court. A petition was filed at the residence of the Acting Chief Justice. A bench of the court heard the petitioners and the Advocate General but reserved orders till August 8 morning.

On August 8 morning, the Advocate General mentioned several obstacles including legal issues, that no construction could happen on Marina in violation of Coastal laws, and also mentioned that there was no precedent of having memorials for former chief ministers on the Marina. For instance, he pointed out that there was no memorial for the founder of the Dravidar Kazhagam, EV Ramaswami (Periyar) or former chief minister Janaki MGR on the Marina.

The DMK counsel pointed out that petitions against allowing memorials on the Marina had been withdrawn on August 7 night, and the decks were cleared for the Kalaignar Memorial on the Marina.

The HC then pronounced an order, allowing the memorial on the Marina, next to Anna, bringing tears of joy among members of the Karunanidhi family and DMK leaders including Karunanidhi’s son and daughter, MK Stalin and Kanimozhi respectively.

This development has a political fall-out as the combination of the Anna and Kalaignar memorials on the Marina would dwarf the MGR and Jayalalithaa memorials. It would also position the DMK as being closest to Anna, since the Kalaignar Memorial would be next to the Anna memorial. This would send out strong visual communication of an Anna-Karunanidhi link which could help the DMK politically, and upset AIADMK calculations.

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