One may disagree with his politics or ideology. But this is one man who has been there, done that, seein it all. Ups, downs and a lot more. RIP “Kalaignar”
Sometimes you win by losing and lose by winning. For example, Germany lost the big war but recovered even faster and became far more powerful and propserous than Britain which won it. Dravidian ideology has won. No questions about that. The disappearance of Brahmins from ruling elite and the decimation of “national” parties that play second fiddle to DMK/ADMK is proof enough. And as a key commander of the victorious “army”, Karunanidhi’s place in history is assured. But what has that victory meant? His death will, after a while resurrect these inconvenient questions. For now though, let us focus on the man and his mission.
It was the age of innocence. A bunch of brilliant, articulate and passionate leaders personally affected by and angered by social discrimination, Brahmin dominance joined together to create a new society. They needed power not to fill their pockets but to get things done for their brethren. While crude, unprintable words and imagery and at times violence were often used at lower rungs off the cadre, these leaders were gentlemen to the core and were speaking the truth when they said they dont hate Brahmins but “Brahminism” And Karunanidhi was one of them, perhaps the best of the lot, second only to “Anna” or Annadurai (CNA) who died too early.
In many ways he was not a pioneer. Be it in the Dravidian ideology or the means adopted to bring it to power. That credit goes to EVR or CNA. Or perhaps to others that came before him, the original founders of Justice party. But he combined the oratory of Anna and MGR’s ability to leverage Kollywood even as he cleverly ditched the utopian and non-marketable ideological purity of EVR.
And he was around longer than a lot of them including many of his rivals within DMK. If he did not outlive them, he simply out maneovered them.
A gentlemen to the core
That is one quality that stood out. Ignoring rare exceptions, he never used harsh words, relied more on humour and biting sarcasm. And he was friendly with and did business with Brahmins whom he supposedly hated. While “Dravidian” progress was held back in the beginning by Brahmin dominance, that was overcome easily given the miniscule population of Brahmins and sheer mathematics of universal franchise. Confronted with reality, Tamil Brahmins chose to simply lie low, fly below radar or sought other channels of progress, or simply removed themselves from the scene through migration. Unlike Mayawati in the North he never really had to share power with them. But other battles were much harder and the climb much steeper. And he had mixed record there.
A man of letters
Most of the fancy titles adopted by Dravidian politicians were a joke but the title of “Kalaignar” is a genuine tribute to his talents and personality. He loved Tamil, learnt it the hard way, not being a natural gifted poet or writer. And he used it in creative ways to further his core ideology and his own ambitions.