DMK chief M Karunanidhi turns 95; PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi extend wishes | india news | Hindustan Times
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DMK chief M Karunanidhi turns 95; PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi extend wishes

Veteran politician M Karunanidhi’s Gopalapuram residence was decked with flowers as scores of party cadres began to converge since Saturday night and cut a cake to mark the occasion.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2018 19:13 IST
C S Kotteswaran
C S Kotteswaran
Hindustan Times, Chennai
File photo of DMK president M Karunanidhi.
File photo of DMK president M Karunanidhi.

Confined to home because of old age, DMK patriarch and five-time Tamil Nadu chief minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi who turned 95 on Sunday remains the party’s biggest draw as it fights to ensure that it remains the principal opposition party for now.

Among those who greeted Karunanidhi on his birthday, were Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal chief minister Mamta Bannerjee. Last year, the DMK had invited leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Nitish Kumar, Sitaram Yechury and Omar Abdullah to celebrate the birthday, but this year, there was no such a massive show of strength by the opposition.

The DMK geared up for Sunday’s gala event by holding a three day celebrations, which started on Friday at Thiruvarur, the birth place of Karunanidhi and concluded in Chennai on Sunday. However, for Karunanidhi himself it was just a day with family members and a few select partymen. Cadres thronged in large numbers from different parts of the state to greet the ailing leader at his Gopalapuram house.

The party decorated the roads leading to MK’s house with festoons and banners greeting their leader. In a rare instance, there were also posters near Poes Garden that houses the residence of late Chief minister J. Jayalalithaa and superstar Rajnikanth.

But the continuing dependence on Karunanidhi also exposes that lack of second rung leadership in the party which has been out of power both in Centre and State. It still needs the charisma of its ageing leader Karunanidhi to rally the masses. On Sunday, the party organ Murasoli ran all its multiple editions focusing on celebrations about the leader’s birthday and his connect with the cadres.

“The sentence ‘En uyirinum melana Udanpirrappe’ (My siblings are dearer than my life) is famous among the party men and the kind of roar it creates during public meeting is electric,” recalls Saidapet DMK MLA M Subramanian.

“He is an institution and there is no match for his administrative skills. He has the habit of reading all the English dailies. The state ministers, city mayors would get calls by 6 am in the morning if there were any negative news related to their portfolio,” recalls Subramanian who once served as Chennai’s mayor. “He would also ask us to respond to the news items and suggest headlines for clarifications and rejoinders,” he adds.

It has been almost two years though, since Karunanidhi spoke last in public and the party cadres are still waiting to hear him, he adds. “If Karunidhi starts addressing the public again, actors Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan who have jumped in to politics will become irrelevant in the state,” the DMK MLA Subramanian insists.

“Though our leader is not in a shape to speak, the Tamil people still speak about him. His political innings dates back to colonial era and he is the reason for the growth and the continuity of this party,” says another DMK MLA Thayagam Kavi of north Chennai. “He is a mass leader who connects with grass root and his birthday is a day for us to celebrate irrespective whether we are ruling or not ruling the state.”

But the hero worship remains largely confined among DMK supporters. Its arch rival, the AIADMK certainly doesn’t think highly of him.

Former MLA Ku Seenivasan of AIADMK feels that Karunanidhi is responsible for much of Tamil Nadu’s current problems.

“He is the root cause for all problems in Tamil Nadu. The DMK gave expansion permissions to Sterlite and it was during his chief ministership, the fishing rights of Tamil Nadu on Katchatheevu island was ceded to Sri Lanka, when Indira Gandhi was the PM. Today, there is no AIADMK founder MGR and Amma (Jayalalithaa) and without the hero there is no role for a villain,” he adds.

Meme creators had a field day, poking fun at his designated heir M K Stalin on his endless wait to ascend the DMK throne. They had a go about him for using his dad as an exhibit. However thousands also took to social media to greet the TN leader. Birthday tweets for Karunanidhi trended for few hours.

Karunanidhi has contested in 12 assembly polls and personally never lost an election. At the age of 33 he entered the TN legislative assembly representing Kulithalai constituency. He was elected five times as the CM of Tamil Nadu. He also faced severe criticism at the time of Eelam war in Sri Lanka.

Karunanidhi has also penned scripts for famous Tamil movies Parasakthi and Manohara dating back to 1950’s and his last movie was Ponnar Shankar in 2011.