Oppn message to BJP at Karuna event

DMK party workers and senior leaders of other party's during the ‘Commemorative meeting for M Karunanidhi‘ at Nandhanam YMCA grounds in Chennai, on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. PTI

Late M Karunanidhi was a champion of federalism, having fought resolutely to strengthen autonomy for states in India.

And on Thursday, when national leaders converged here to pay tributes to the five-time chief minister, they spoke about the need to imbibe the principles that Karunanidhi stood for — being a true-blue Indian despite tremendously loving his own language and culture — at a time "the idea of India is being challenged".

If leaders from the Congress and other Opposition parties, including TMC and the Left, attacked the Narendra Modi government for trying to "change the idea of India", the lone representative from the BJP, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, reminded the DMK that it had stood with the saffron party during the Emergency; on various occasions chose to oppose the policies of Congress; and was also part of the A B Vajpayee-led NDA.

Except for Gadkari, the political leaders, most of whom had a working relationship with Karunanidhi, reminded DMK's new president M K Stalin on the need to follow his father's “secular path” and deliver a maximum number of seats from Tamil Nadu to dislodge Modi dispensation from Raisina Hills.

"The BJP and DMK are one of the very few parties that opposed the Congress and its policies way back in the 1960s. And Karunanidhiji opposed the Emergency in 1975. He also had an excellent working relationship with our leader A B Vajpayee. And it is unfortunate that we lost both leaders in a brief period of time," Gadkari told the memorial meeting titled 'Kalaignar Karunanidhi: The Sun That Rose from the South'.

From former prime minister H D Deve Gowda to CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury to CPI's Sudhakar Reddy to Trinamool's Derek O'Brien to NC's Farooq Abdullah, everyone spoke about the need for all parties that believe in federalism and secular values to come together to protect democracy, which they said was under threat under the BJP government.

As Gadkari left early, he was saved the embarrassment of every leader criticising the policies of his government.

"Karunanidhi left us at a time when federalism in this country is facing great danger. Strengthening of regional parties is of utmost importance in India today and we all have a great responsibility of upholding the values and protecting federalism," Deve Gowda said.

Castigating the Modi government for segregating Indian citizens into "Indian citizens and inferior Indian citizen," Yechury said the history of India is being converted to mere Hindu mythology.

"The way the people who support the victims are being arrested and slapped with cases under the UAPA is nothing but a state-patronised emergency. This undeclared Emergency is worse than the declared Emergency," the CPM leader said.

Abdullah, who lavished praises on Karunanidhi, spoke for the need for all political parties, including the DMK, to resolve the festering crisis in Kashmir, while reinforcing the state's commitment towards India's sovereignty.

While Derek O'Brien said the best tribute to Karunanidhi would be to install a "federal government" consisting of all regional parties in 2019, CPI's Raja said Karunanidhi would be remembered as long as Chennai existed, recalling the late leader's decision to rename Madras as Chennai.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who had worked with Karunanidhi for decades as Congress' troubleshooter, called the late DMK president a "true democrat" who would have vehemently opposed the "attack on democracy and freedom of speech" under the Modi government.

"Yes, Karunanidhiji opposed Emergency and he passed a resolution against its imposition in the state assembly. But Indira Gandhi herself apologised for Emergency and Karunanidhiji had a working relationship with Indiraji. But if he was alive today, he would have opposed the Modi government as well,” he said, in reply to Gadkari.

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Oppn message to BJP at Karuna event

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