A LEADER

Con­quests Muthu­vel Karunanidhi made many

FrontLine - - EDITOR’S NOTE - BY A.S. PANNEERSELVAN

On his long jour­ney from Thirukku­valai vil­lage in Tiru­varur district to the hearts of crores of Tamils, in the fields of pol­i­tics, lit­er­a­ture and cin­ema. On the evo­lu­tion of the Dra­vid­ian icon who in a way dic­tated the course of even na­tional pol­i­tics for sev­eral decades.

ON APRIL 12, 2011, THE DAY AF­TER elec­tion­eer­ing had come to an end, Muthu­vel Karunanidhi was in a re­flec­tive mood. Mura­soli Sel­vam, his nephew and the ed­i­tor of the Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam (DMK) the party or­gan Mura­soli, poet Ilayab­harathi and I were with him, in Tiru­varur, dis­cussing the lat­est poll sur­veys that pre­dicted a close fight. He re­jected the sur­veys and said that a close fight was not pos­si­ble in Tamil Nadu and the State would vote de­ci­sively. “It looks like a de­ci­sive loss, rather than a close fight,” he ob­served. To lighten the mood, he changed the topic from poll out­comes to my pro­posed bi­og­ra­phy, which was not an au­tho­rised bi­og­ra­phy but an in­de­pen­dent one for which he had as­sured max­i­mum ac­cess. He was com­fort­able with the idea that I would com­plete the bi­og­ra­phy only af­ter the court ver­dict on the 2G cases.

The ever-eru­dite Karunanidhi sud­denly spoke about my trib­ute to the Jaffna scholar A.J. Cana­garatna in which I had quoted James Joyce. Joyce, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, makes his lead char­ac­ter de­clare: “I will not serve that in which I no longer be­lieve whether it call it­self my home, my fa­ther­land, or my church: and I will try to ex­press my­self in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, us­ing for my de­fence the only arms I al­low to use—si­lence, exile and cun­ning.” Karunanidhi said there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween one who seeks artis­tic free­dom alone and the one who seeks a com­pre­hen­sive po­lit­i­cal free­dom that in­cludes so­cial jus­tice along with cre­ative free­dom. “Exile was an op­tion for Joyce, but it was not an op­tion for Peri­yar, Anna or me. We had to stay put here and the arms we used are the pen and the tongue,” he said, giving an ex­cel­lent open­ing for my bi­og­ra­phy.

SEPTEM­BER 19, 1967:

In a State where lan­guage, em­pow­er­ment, selfre­spect, art, literary forms and films co­a­lesce to lend po­lit­i­cal vi­brancy, Karunanidhi’s life be­comes a sort of nat­u­ral metaphor of mod­ern Tamil Nadu. His mul­ti­fac­eted per­son­al­ity helps to un­der­stand the or­ganic evo­lu­tion of the Dra­vid­ian Move­ment. To un­der­stand how he came to the po­si­tion to wield the pen and his tongue for his pol­i­tics, rather than bombs and ri­fles for rev­o­lu­tion, one has to look at his early life.

Like Ma­hatma Gandhi, Peri­yar E.V. Ra­masamy chose not to be a part of the elec­toral sys­tem or state power. But C.N. An­nadu­rai and Karunanidhi, like Jawa­har­lal Nehru, chose to be a part of the state sys­tem. An­nadu­rai did not live long to bat­tle with the in­her­ent

JUNE 29, 1970: Peri­yar E.V. Ra­masamy greet­ing Karunanidhi on the eve of the Chief Min­is­ter’s tour of for­eign coun­tries, at a func­tion in Madras.

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