If dreams are the touchstones of our character, as poet-philosopher Henry David Thoreau once put it, then DMK chief M Karunanidhi is certainly not found wanting. The man, who has been the patriarch of his family, party and the state for several decades, seems to be undeterred by his recent run of bad luck that included a stunning loss in the 2011 assembly elections and the news of the involvement of his family in the telecom scam, leading to the incarceration for a while of his daughter, Kanimozhi. Despite such severe setbacks, the five-time CM of Tamil Nadu still has the ability to dream, rather daydream: last week, in Chennai, the former screenplay writer, who is known for his wit and oratorical skills, declared grandly that “blood spilt and the sacrifices made by Tamils” in Sri Lanka would not go to waste and a separate nation will come into existence some day. Like a movie star, he ended with a flourish: “A separate Tamil Eelam rings in the ears of Tamils living all over the world as a liberation song.” His comment now threatens to turn into a diplomatic storm with Sri Lankan defence secretary retorting that Karunanidhi should work for an Eelam in India because the largest population of Tamils live in his state.
Since the assembly elections are four years and the general elections two years away, the DMK chief’s sudden outburst for a separate Tamil Eelam is surprising. Could it be that the grand old man, who was once known for his rationalist ideals, has simply forgotten that next door, across the Palk Strait, a man called Mahinda Rajapaksa, has settled the issue once and for all — and that even in domestic Tamil politics the topic has very little vote-catching ability?
But then like old film stars, old politicians, too, hate it when they are elbowed out of the news pages that they once graced very often. The lure of the limelight is so great that they try every trick in the book to stay on the front pages and make it to prime time. Even if it requires reinventing the wheel, they will do it — over and over again. After all, the show must go on.