On his affin­ity to com­mu­nist ideals

The ex­pan­sion of the na­tional move­ment, the trade union move­ment and com­mu­nist pol­i­tics in­flu­enced his evo­lu­tion as a po­lit­i­cal leader.


KALAIG­NAR KARUNANIDHI has left us. A per­son­al­ity that had dom­i­nated Dra­vid­ian pol­i­tics and Tamil pol­i­tics, arts and lit­er­a­ture for seven decades, has bid farewell, leav­ing a void. Keep­ing aside the dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions when I had to in­ter­act with him as Ker­ala’s Chief Min­is­ter and Leader of the Op­po­si­tion, it would only be ap­pro­pri­ate to say I did not have any di­rect per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with him. But I have al­ways ob­served and stud­ied his po­lit­i­cal life, just like a stu­dent of pol­i­tics. I am not try­ing to go into the life of Karunanidhi or the chrono­log­i­cal de­tails of his po­lit­i­cal his­tory. My at­tempt is to try and de­lin­eate the qual­i­ta­tive mer­its of that stream in Dra­vid­ian pol­i­tics, and in Tamil Nadu pol­i­tics as a whole, which in­cluded him and which he helped de­velop.

We both came into pol­i­tics in our ado­les­cent years. My be­lief is that an affin­ity to­wards com­mu­nist ideals too had played a has­ten­ing role in Karunanidhi’s po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. The lot of the work­ers dur­ing that pe­riod and the growth of the work­ing class com­mu­nist left move­ment had in­flu­enced Karunanidhi. One of the main sources that moulded Karunanidhi was the Tamil literary skill and dex­ter­ous speak­ing tal­ent of the bril­liant or­a­tor P. Jee­vanand­ham, an as­so­ci­ate of Peri­yar who later be­came a com­mu­nist leader. But Karunanidhi rose and grew in pol­i­tics not as an ac­tivist of the Com­mu­nist Party, but along with An­nadu­rai as an ac­tivist of the Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam.

We can say that the de­ci­sive event that re­in­forced Karunanidhi’s fu­ture was a rag­ing speech about the brave mar­tyr­dom of com­mu­nists in the fir­ing in the Salem jail, which he made at a DMK con­fer­ence held in the wake of the in­ci­dent. What needs to be read to­gether is that the mar­tyr­dom of the 22 com­mu­nist ac­tivists who were branded as “Dan­ger Com­mu­nists” and locked up in the Salem jail had shaken Karunanidhi ter­ri­bly and that the fir­ing in­ci­dent had dou­bled the ha­tred in peo­ple’s minds against the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Was it not Karunanidhi who sowed the seeds of pol­i­tics and wa­tered and nur­tured it there­after within M.G. Ra­machan­dran, who in 1972 split away from the DMK and formed the Anna Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam? It was Karunanidhi’s pen that made M.G. Ra­machan­dran an “Ezhai Thozhan” (Friend of the Poor) and, through fiery dia­logues, made him so pop­u­lar. It would be more cor­rect to say that it was the com­mu­nist in­flu­ence in Karunanidhi that did this. Karunanidhi and his work­ing class characters stole the hearts of the Tamil peo­ple through dia­logues that were al­ways right on tar­get.

One can say with­out any doubt that it was ra­tio­nal thought that “sea­soned” Karunanidhi. To the end he held the be­lief that it was in­di­vid­ual ef­fort and not di­vine grace that gave strength to hu­man be­ings. There was in­deed a pro-com­mu­nist con­stituency within the heart of that poet who trans­lated Changam­puzha’s [cel­e­brated Malay­alam poem] “Vazhakkula” into Tamil.

In later years, Karunanidhi, who took pride in his south In­dian iden­tity and rose with An­nadu­rai’s slo­gan “Dra­vid­ian Na­tion or Death”, be­came the leader of a more ex­treme Tamil move­ment. The po­lit­i­cal tac­ti­cian

“We can­not an­a­lyse the in­trin­sic strength of Tamil Nadu pol­i­tics at all with­out link­ing it to Karunanidhi.”

WHEN Ker­ala Chief Min­is­ter V.S. Achuthanan­dan vis­ited Karunanidhi in Chennai on June 10, 2006.

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