Speculation about what the future holds for Kanimozhi, especially with regard to her political and cultural career, is an exercise in pointlessness. Once it appeared that the poet-princess would never be dethroned and nobody could have foretold this fall. She strove to be cast as an icon of Tamil culture, and took every effort to carefully cultivate the image of being the epitome of Tamil womanhood. She earned superlative praise for throwing together a cultural extravaganza like Chennai Sangamam. She did not miss a single photo-op to pose with transgenders or other marginalised groups but it was only the Radia tapes which revealed that behind this facade of an eternally sacrificing woman was a shrewd politician who lobbied to become the nation’s aviation minister.
The literary personalities, writers, journalists and academics whom she had befriended in her capacity as Karunanidhi’s literary heir have now fallen silent and even her strategic use of the Nadar caste card has not won her any sympathy. At the end of the day, it is going to be difficult for her to rebuild her fractured fame.
Tamil people are not going to be shocked when a member of a business empire called the Karunanidhi-maran family is accused of corruption. We know that they have a finger in every possible pie and, as a consequence, they are one of the richest families in South Asia. What has instead surprised us is the open manner in which Karunanidhi has pledged his politics to suit his family interests. Cadres of the DMK are being pushed into action for the sake of Kanimozhi.
The DMK patriarch could keep his composure intact even as cluster bombs rained on Tamils in Vanni, but turned teary eyed when his daughter developed blisters after her first week of imprisonment in Tihar Jail. This octogenarian leader could only write letters to the Indian Prime Minister when lakhs of Tamils faced immediate extermination at the hands of the Sri Lankan Government but he flies to Delhi every other week to visit his daughter. Sadly, the personal is the political.
Those who believe that five months in prison and a trial by judicial fire will restore Kanimozhi to her former glory have got it all wrong. One must remember that she has not been jailed under the TADA or POTA or any other draconian Act. She is not a political prisoner. She has not gone to jail because she represented the people, or any of their aspirations. She is in jail because of personal greed. She cannot even claim that she is being imprisoned because of political vendetta. In her case, there can be no halo of martyrdom or victimhood or tortured womanhood. No prison poetry, no jail diary, can salvage her reputation.
Images of a traumatised Kanimozhi, or news of her breaking down in the courtroom after being denied bail by Justice O.P. Saini, might hog headlines at the moment. But, the people of Tamil Nadu will find it impossible to forgive or forget the images of Kanimozhi rubbing shoulders with Mahinda Rajapaksa and smiling shamelessly in October 2009 even as 3,00,000 Tamils continued to be held captive in concentration camps. She turned traitor when she visited Sri Lanka as an official guest of a government that had cold-bloodedly committed the genocide of 1,50,000 Tamils only a few months before. Her estrangement from the people came about not merely because she belongs to “upper echelons of the society” (in Justice Saini’s words), or because of the taint of relentless corruption that has enveloped her. She failed Tamils tragically, both with her silence and her doubletongued speech.
The 2G scam has ensured that she is no longer a media darling. Tamil people however disowned her two years ago. Her reputation, like that of several other Tamil political leaders, lies buried in the mass graves in Mullivaaikkal.
The people of Tamil Nadu will find it impossible to forgive or forget the images of Kanimozhi rubbing shoulders with Mahinda Rajapaksa and smiling shamelessly in October 2009 even as 3,00,000 Tamils continued to be held captive in concentration camps.