MK stood for regional aspirations

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurating the newly-constructed Secretarial Complex at Legislative Assembly in Chennai. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Tamilnadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, Andhra Pradesh Chief

For long, national political parties, especially the Congress, refused to acknowledge the rise of regional powers.

But as fate would have it, coalition era heralded the arrival of regional political parties on the national scene and Muthuvel Karunanidhi played a pivotal role.

The Congress that dismissed the Karunanidhi government twice, 1976 and 1991, was forced to do business with the regional heavyweight in the 2000s.

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The bespectacled man with a hoarse voice, who was once branded as a secessionist at the height of the Dravida Nadu demanded by DMK founder C N Annadurai, Karunanidhi was colossal in the rough and tumble of politics and played an active role in the formation of alternative fronts.

After having been forced into political exile due to the emergence of his friend-turned-political foe M G Ramachandran, Karunanidhi rose like a phoenix from the ashes in 1989 to re-capture Tamil Nadu and place DMK on the national map.

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The veteran Dravidian politician played a key role in installing then Congress rebel V P Singh as the prime minister at the helm of the National Front government in 1989, he was among those who impressed upon Singh to ensure social justice is delivered with the introduction of a quota for OBCs.

That he did not speak Hindi or English as fluently as his political rivals from Tamil Nadu hardly mattered to Karunanidhi – his party enjoyed power at the Centre for nearly two decades as part of National Front (1989), United Front (1996), National Democratic Alliance (1999) and United Progressive Alliance (2004).  But, he never aspired to a role in national politics, saying “I know my height.”

“He was a real champion of advocating better Centre-state relations and played a crucial role in forming the United Front government in 1996. His inputs for the common minimum programme was of prime importance and he leaves behind a great legacy,” CPI national secretary D Raja told DH.

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said he learnt immensely from the DMK chief’s understanding of rationalism, humanism and India diversity. “He leaves behind a big void. A huge loss,” he said.  

ALSO READ: Obituary: Karunanidhi, the doyen of Dravidian politics

A master strategist, Karunanidhi knew when to walk out of alliances and where to join. Sensing trouble in the NDA, he walked out of the Vajpayee government in 2003 and ensured that the Congress was at his doorsteps in Chennai.

Manmohan Singh flew to Chennai to bring the DMK into the “secular” fold. Karunanidhi also enjoyed an excellent rapport with Sonia Gandhi, who buried the hatchet with him.

 

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MK stood for regional aspirations

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