Guilty or innocent, Kanimozhi needs to reinvent herself
Kanimozhi is the child of the ‘other woman’ and that has both made and marred her life. Her father, M. Karunanidhi, is known to be obsessed with the Tamil epic Silappadhikaram, the love triangle between Kannagi, her husband Kovalan and the other woman, Madhavi. Karunanidhi produced and scripted a modern celluloid version of the epic in 1964, four years before Kanimozhi’s birth.
In the epic, Kovalan, an affluent businessman, deserts his wife Kannagi for the courtesan Madhavi. After a quarrel with Madhavi, a now impoverished Kovalan returns to his wife who takes him back. When Kovalan tries to sell Kannagi’s anklet, he is accused of theft. The king sentences him to death but Kannagi goes on to prove that the anklet was hers. Kannagi avenges her husband’s death by burning down Madurai.
While Kovalan had no qualms about first deserting Kannagi and then Madhavi, Karunanidhi could not leave his wife Dayalu Ammaal for the other woman in his life, Rajathi Ammal. The latter, on being admitted for delivery to hospital, gave Karunanidhi’s address. C.N. Annadurai, the then chief minister of Tamil Nadu, got Karunanidhi to enter into a second marriage with Rajathi.
Kanimozhi grew up a lonely child. There was no love lost between her stepmother Dayalu, her step brothers—m.k. Alagiri and M.K. Stalin— and her. Karunanidhi had to maintain two different households and Kanimozhi grew up as his favourite child. At an early age, she took to literature. She began writing poetry and cultivated the friendship of various contemporary writers. She was known to be indifferent to politics.
In the feud that raged between the two families, Kanimozhi was both beneficiary and victim. Her mother wanted a bigger role for her daughter. Not satisfied with Kanimozhi being a literary heir to her father, she wanted her to be his political successor as well. A coterie gradually formed around Kanimozhi. A. Raja of 2G spectrum fame was one of her loyalists. Neither Dayalu’s family nor that of Karunanidhi’s late nephew Murasoli Maran wanted her to enter politics. When she did take the plunge, it was in alliance with Alagiri, who was engaged in a turf battle with Stalin. In June 2007, Kanimozhi was nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
There are apparently two sides to Kanimozhi. One is of a warm and refined person. The other is of a calculating manipulator. Her conversations with corporate lobbyist Niira Radia on tape reveal the latter side. From the television footage following her father’s arrest by the Jayalalithaa government in June 2001, one image remains etched in memory. Her sitting with him on the road outside the prison—a favourite child by her father’s side at a time of distress. The other image from then, that of her fisting a policeman on the chest, has been forgotten.
What lies in her future? If the courts convict her, it’s the end of the road. If she manages to escape punishment, she will have to struggle for political space. Neither Alagiri nor Stalin nor the Maran brothers— Kalanithi and Dayanidhi—will allow her to become powerful again. She will have to co-exist with one of the DMK factions. Just 43, Kanimozhi still has a long road ahead. She may have to reinvent herself. She has done so in the past. Poet. Politician. Prisoner. What next? Philosopher?