Though Tamil Nadu is observing the appearance of superstars like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan and on the political horizon, the state will always miss one of their most charismatic Chief Ministers – M. Karunanidhi. Besides being a prolific politician, his story has many facets to be unfolded. Let’s get into detail about the story of M. Karunanidhi:
Born In Adversity
On 3 June 1924, M. Karunanidhi was born as Daksinamoorthy into an Isai Vellalar Hindu modest family in Thirukuvalai, Tanjore District, Madras Presidency, British India, who relied upon the temple for their survival by playing Nadaswaram; a wind instrument.
M Karunanidhi’s Childhood Painting
Casteism Taught Him Politics
He was born at a time when the struggle for India’s independence and casteism were at its peak and Tamil Nadu was no exception. He initially faced caste restrictions of that time when he used to go for his music classes. He wasn’t permitted to cover his upper body and his music learning was also limited to a few songs.
Anti-Hindi and Pro-Tamil Ideology
Despite all the social inequalities, his love for Tamil art and literature blossomed. When he was in his 5th standard in Tiruvarur, the Justice Party lost the election. The next year, the first Congress government came into power in Madras. And, when Rajaji became the chief minister, he wanted to make a law to make the learning of Hindi in schools compulsory. This created agitation among the Tamil people, one of which was M. Karunanidhi.
On 3 June 1938, the first Anti-Hindi protest took place in Saidapet, Madras, led by Maraimalai Adigal. Pattukottai Azhagirisamy, of the Justice Party, led a march throughout the state in protest against the imposition of Hindi. Karunanidhi witnessed one of the speeches of him that activated the Tamil activist inside of him. Thereafter, he became a student activist in Periyar’s Self-Respect Movement, to fight for the rights of the Dravidians.
As a young Tamil student, he started doing street protests. His artistic “Kalaignar” and oratorical skills got refined when started giving firebrand speeches and founded a magazine. His political activism found favour with Periyar and his lieutenant CN Annadurai, who gave him political space. In 1939, Rajaji’s tenure ended and the interim government abolished the introduction of Hindi, which was the first victory for the anti-Hindi protesters like M. Karunanidhi.
Failed As A Student, Rose As A Writer
Though he failed to clear his higher studies, his passion for writing reached the next level. He left his studies and founded a student organisation called ‘Tamil Nadu Tamil Manavar Mandram,’ the apex student wing of the Dravidian Movement. He also started doing social work and started a newspaper for its members, that later on became ‘Murasoli,’ the DMK party’s official newspaper.
M Karunanidhi – Murasoli’s 75th Anniversary in 2017
In the midst of revolutions, he had his first marriage with Padmavathi in 1944 in a style of marriage inspired by the Dravidian movement, without any ‘Mangalsutra’ and ‘Brahmin’ priests. It was love at first sight for him and made him a more responsible person who started looking for a steady source of income. He then started working for Dravida Nadigar Kazhagam and wrote scripts for their plays to promote their Dravidian ideology. Unfortunately, she died the after 3 years, in 1947, leaving behind a son, M. K. Muthu.
Almost Beaten To Death by Congress Workers
When he was in Pondicherry, a local lawyer asked him to write an article for his magazine ‘Thozhilaalar Mithran.’ Karunanidhi wrote an article called “That Pen!,” which was Gandhi and the Congress based, specifically on a pen that was lost from the Sabarmati Ashram. The situation was under control until this article, but the next article called “What if Gandhi Became the Viceroy?” ignited the Congress workers of Pondicherry. When the duo Periyar, Anna and Pattukottai Azhagirisamy addressed a public meeting, they saw a huge protest from the Congressmen who booed them by saying, “Dravidian leaders! Go back!.” The verbal protest suddenly turned into a violent protest and the Dravidians had to run away in fear of getting beaten down. M Karunanidhi like other Dravidians was looking for a house to hide and even got it. But, the Congressmen found him and beat him until he lost consciousness. The Congressmen thought he was dead and threw him into the sewers. Luckily, he survived, and an old woman saw him, wore him a ‘burqa’ and took her to where Periyar was staying.
Periyar And Annadurai’s Blue Eyed Boy
His bravery, exceptional oratorical skills, essays, newspaper articles, and theatre plays, hugely impressed Periyar and C. N. Annadurai, who rewarded him by making him the editor of the Dravidar Kazhagam party magazine, ‘Kudiyarasu.’
M Karunanidhi (second from left) With Annadurai (left) MGR (second from right) with Periyar (right)
1947 – A Milestone Year in His Life
When India got its Independence in 1947, he chose Annadurai over Periyar after the split of the “Anti-Hindi” movement. The same year, he also garnered fame for writing the screenplay of the Tamil film ‘Rajakumari,’ starring M. G. Ramachandran and K. Malathi. His financial status swelled up after it, and he started earning ₹10,000 a month. In 1948, his life started taking positive turns as he got remarried to Dayalu Ammal.
Inception Of The DMK
On 17 September 1949, the state political party of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) was formed by C.N Annadurai, and M. Karunanidhi played a vital role in making it happen.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)
From 1950 onwards, he was in a win-win situation in both films and political front. In 1952, he became a star writer with the debut film of Sivaji Ganeshan, ‘Parasakthi,’ which went on to become a cult film. He also gained political prominence in 1953 when he led ‘Mummunai Porattam,’ a series of agitation against the government decision to rename Kallakudi railway station as Dalmiapuram.
Flurry Of Promotion In The DMK
In 1957, he got elected to the Tamil Nadu Assembly for the first time; from the Kulithalai seat of Tiruchirapalli district. Consequently, in 1961, he was made the DMK Treasurer, and a year later, the Deputy Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly. In 1967, he was made the Minister for Public Works and Highways, after which DMK formed the government.
M Karunanidhi In 1960s
The Secret Behind His Dark Goggles
In the late 1960s, he had met an accident that damaged his left eye. On medical recommendation, he started using dark goggles to shield his eyes from exposure to sunlight. However, his goggles became a trendsetter, which is still being followed by his supporters in Tamil Nadu.
M Karunanidhi Taking Off His Goggles
All Is Fair In Love And War For Kalaignar
His married life with Dalayu Ammal derailed in the 1960s after he had an extra-marital affair with Rajathi Ammal. Things came out in the public domain when he preferred to refer Rajathi Ammal as his daughter Kanimozhi’s mother. Karunanidhi was aware of the fact that he couldn’t get married to Rajathi as per The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. So, he made a new way and got married to her via DMK’s new marriage tradition- ‘Swayam Maryada Kalyanam,’ to made his marriage look legal.
Anna Gone Kalaignar On
M Karunanidhi Taking Oath As Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu In 1969
On 3 February 1969, Annadurai fell ill and died. Karunanidhi was the very obvious choice to succeed Anna, and eventually became Tamil Nadu’s chief minister for the first time on 10 February 1969.
Friend Turned Enemy
M. Karunanidhi and M.G. Ramachandran or MGR met in the 1940s and became close friends, who not only shared the struggles in films, but also in politics. young people in films and politics face.
M Karunanidhi (left) And MG Ramachandran (right)
MGR’s breakthrough was scripted by his close friend in the 1950s hit ‘Manthiri Kumari.’
M Karunanidhi – Manthiri Kumari
It was Karunanidhi who inspired MGR to move from the Congress to the DMK in 1953, who brought a huge fan following along with him when he joined the DMK. Things worked in tandem for around 30 years, but Karunanidhi’s ambitions came in between as he wanted to rise out of the shadow of not only Anna but also MGR. After getting an enormous mandate in the 1971 assembly elections, MGR was not given any place in the cabinet, after which he split up with the DMK in 1972, and formed a new party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).
Emergency And Its After Effects
If 1972 was his rise, 1975 was his fall. M Karunanidhi, as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, opposed Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, but like other Indian states, his government too was dismissed. In 1977, when the Emergency was lifted, MGR took the revenge after he made an alliance with his old friend Congress, and won the post-Emergency elections in the state.
Jayalalithaa, Saree, And Mahabharat
It was the revival of the DMK in 1989, when the came in power after 13 years, but they made such a blunder that changed the Tamil Nadu politics forever. On 25 March 1989, the Tamil Nadu Assembly witnessed the deja vu of Mahabharat’s Draupadi Vastraharan by Duryodhana, where Jayalalithaa replaced the role of Draupadi and the DMK’s Durai Murugan, and his colleague, Veerapandi Arumugham replaced Duryodhana. When the war of words was at its peak between the DMK and the AIADMK, Jayalalithaa made it even more dramatic by pointing to her saree and saying, “My saree was pulled and torn, ” and pointed the finger towards, Durai Murugan, the then Minister in the DMK Cabinet. Jayalalithaa extracted every bit of political mileage out of this issue and used it as a sympathetic weapon in the 1991 election campaign, and registered a spectacular victory with a record vote share.
M Karunanidhi – Jayalalitha Saree Incident
Revival At The State and Centre
In 1996, the DMK made a strong comeback, not only in the State, but Centre as well. They formed an alliance with the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) — a Congress fragment group and came to power. The DMK also joined the Deve Gowda-led United Front government at the Centre.
M Karunanidhi Taking Oath As Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu In 1996
In 1999, he made and an alliance with the emerging National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the DMK was rewarded with 3 ministerial berths, with Murasoli Maran, T.R. Baalu and A. Raja joining the Vajpayee cabinet. In just a matter of few years, the DMK realised that they made the wrong move by shaking hands with the NDA, especially the BJP that holds an image of a “Pro Hindu” party after the Godhra killings and riots of 2002.
M Karunanidhi – Atal Bihari Vajpayee
The Alliance Masterstroke
In 2004, he made the right move for his party and joined hands with the Indian National Congress (INC) and secured a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections. Under the umbrella of this alliance, he went on to become the Chief Minister for the 5th time, in 2006.
M Karunanidhi With Manmohan Singh
His Dog Made Him Vegetarian
Though he had always been a non-vegetarian, after the death of one of his pets, Blackie, a Dachshund, he got so moved that he didn’t eat non-vegetarian food for around 2 years. He later returned to his non-vegetarian diet on medical recommendation.
M Karunanidhi With Blackie
The 2G spectrum scam of 2008 was enough to sink his floating political ship. His daughter, Kanimozhi, and A. Raja got arrested in connection with the 2G scam- a scam that incurred a loss of ₹1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer of India. Though they were acquitted of all the charges in the 2G Scam, the DMK already lost the ground till then as the DMK was trashed in the 2016 Assembly elections by their arch-rivals, AIADMK.
The Fading Heath & Death
The was a constant decline in his heath in the monsoons of 2018. On 28 July 2018, he was admitted in Kauvery Hospital, Chennai, following a dip in this blood pressure.
M Karunanidhi on 31 July 2018 in Kauvery Hospital, Chennai
Though he was treated with active medical support, his struggle lasted after 10 days, on 7 August 2018, at 6:10 pm, when he took his last breath following a Urinary Tract Infection and left behind a 61-year-old legacy. He was laid to rest at Marina Beach’s Anna Memorial in Chennai, and the Tamil Nadu state observed a 7-day mourn as a mark of respect.
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