The ‘Other’ad­van­tage

Guilty or in­no­cent, Kan­i­mozhi needs to rein­vent her­self

India Today - - COVER STORY -

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?

Gnanisankaran

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