The name Muthuvel Karunanidhi invokes extreme reactions from both diehard loyalists to fierce opponents. Be it in power or out of power, active or not, the 94-year-old grand old DMK president has had a great/remarkable influence on the political narrative of Tamil Nadu. He represents a heterogeneous and multilayered imagination of the Indian nation. In his 60-year-long legislative career, he never tasted defeat.
Coming from a socially and economically disadvantaged community, he entered politics at a very young age of 14. He was a part of the Dravidian movement and assumed leadership in dialogues and screenplay writing. He along with Annadurai has written innumerable hard-hitting social dramas that were used to promote Dravidian ideologies among the masses.
Initially, he was a part of the Dravida Kazhagam of Pariyar and later due to ideological differences he and his mentor C. Annadurai started Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). He assumed the post of Chief Minister in 1969 after the untimely death of Annadurai. Until now he has become Chief Minister for 5 times.
Karunanidhi always advocated for the rights of transgender people. He included them in the constitution as third-gender, conducted reforms, and supported them in their employment rights. One of the remarkable things he did for them was to change the way they were addressed, introducing a new word into the dictionary. Because of his efforts, the transgenders were able to walk boldly into ration shops and avail benefits without having to be what they are not. It was him only who made efforts to move the Rights of Transgenders Bill 2014 passed by the Rajya Sabha.
When it comes to national politics, Karunanidhi played an important role in running of various Union governments. Going back to 1969 when the Indian National Congress (INC) had a split following a crisis, it was him who had lent his support to Indira Gandhi to create stability in the government. Later in 2004 Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu, UPA carried off the votes that proved to be helpful in making government in the Centre. Then Sonia Gandhi had offered him a post of Deputy Prime Minister. Again in 2009, DMK played a key role in bringing back the UPA in power for another 5 years.
Karunanidhi was a down to earth person. Once in 1997, the HD Deve Gowda government was knocked down, then few leaders proposed him to consider the opportunity and gain control of it. On this, he refused them and said, “I know my height”.
He enjoyed living a care-free life and is least bothered about things of less importance. Once when Bill Gates visited him at his home, he was asked about his feelings of hosting world’s richest man. He instantly replied that Bill Gates had come to borrow some money from me. He also gifted Gates books including his interpretations of Thirukkural (translated in English). In another incident that shows his spontaneous behaviour was when right-wing Hindu Munnani leader, Rama Gopalan offered him a copy of Bhagwat Gita, he accepted the book and in return, he gave him a copy of the Dravida Kazhagam book, ‘The Other side of Gita’.
DMK presidnet consistently promoted the Dravidian principles of Social Justice and Social Equality, Self-respect movement, (anti-Brahminism), love for mother tongue (anti-Hindi). He also gained criticism when his party men painted tar on Hindi posters. But even after being anti-brahmin, he never promoted any violence against Brahmins.
He practiced polygamy and married another woman when two of his previous wives are alive. He survived with three wives, named Dayalu Ammal, Padmavathi Ammal, Rajathi Ammal, two daughters, named Kanimozhi and MK Selvi and four sons called MK Tamilarasu, MK Muthu, MK Alagiri, MK Stalin. The name Karunanidhi invokes extreme reactions from both diehard loyalists to fierce opponents. Be it in power or out of power, active or not, the 94-year-old grand old DMK president has had a great/remarkable influence on the political narrative of Tamil Nadu.
Muthuvel Karunanidhi would always be known as a great leader, a good administrator and someone that can be looked back to take a guide from in politics.