Book Review: Karunanidhi

The Book ‘Karunanidhi-A Life’ is written by veteran journalist A.S. Panneerselvan.

Karunanidhi was the five term CM of Tamil Nadu and one of the most important leaders of modern India.

He was the leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) whose ideology can be characterised as anti-Hindi (pro Tamil), anti-Hindu (pro-atheism), anti-India (pro-Tamil Nadu) and anti-Brahmin (pro-Dalit). Post the 1962 China war, the anti-India stance was dropped.

The Book traces the life and political career of Karunanidhi and is quite fascinating.

Karunanidhi was born in a very poor family but was active in politics since a very young age. Due to his activism, he didnt have much time for studies and flunked the X board exam 3 times. Having flunked the exam thrice, he was barred from giving the exam again ! This left him free to pursue his political and cinematic career.

What astonished me when I read the book was what an intellectual giant Karunanidhi was. In his career, he wrote more than 1.5L pages in print for party magazines, orated for more than 4000 hours and penned more than 70 film scripts.

Another aspect that surprised me was the violence that even a leader like Karunanidhi was subjected to. In Pondicherry , he was once almost beaten to death and in Chennai, some assailants almost succeeded in killing him.

When Karunanidhi started his political career, cinema was just taking off in the country. With the power of his pen, he used cinema as a political medium to raise political consciousness. I think this is a lost art now. He used to pen scripts that conveyed the political message of the day using themes/motifs from Tamil culture/ethos. His scripts help made Sivaji Ganesan and MGR superstars.

The Book traces the ins & outs of Tamil Nadu politics. It can leave the reader quite bewildered. One party can be in opposition to another party in one election and be in alliance with the same party in the next ! So we find the DMK at one point or the other in alliance with Congress, TMC, Swatantra, BJP, CPI, CPM, Muslim League etc

What is also interesting is how frequently the Centre brought down the state govt in Tamil Nadu using Article 356 of the Constitution. The Centre since 1950s have been meddling in TN politics. I was surprised to learn that AIADMK was the creation of the Centre.

The Book covers the relation of Karunanidhi and other state leaders with the LTTE. Till date, rest of India is not aware of the depth of emotion that people of Tamil Nadu have in this matter.

DMK under Karunanidhi was always known for 2 things-administration efficiency and corruption. The term ‘scientific corruption’ was invented to describe Karunanidhi’s rule.

As CM, Karunanidhi took forward the industrialization and progressive social agenda of the state. Unfortunately, corruption charges remained a constant companion throughout.

One issue unexplored and deserving of further study is how a party based on intellectualism and ideology got hijacked by one family.

The author seems to be a card carrying member of the DMK and can see no fault in his beloved leader. Last line of the Book is ‘Karunanidhi embodied and continues to embody the courage for Tamils to pursue their long march towards self-respect’

I would recommend this Book only to students of Indian politics.

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