The death of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader and five time Tamil Nadu chief minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi has shaken the core of Tamil Nadu political scenario. Karunanidhi was a stalwart of the Tamil politics and his popularity extended far beyond the reaches of political circles thanks to his successful film writing career and other literary pursuits. His death on the 7th of August has ended an entire generation which had strived for power in the state from the 70s, from MGR’s death in the 90s to Jayalalitha’s death which happened 2 years ago. An entire class of politicians whose political stance was based on Tamil identity and Dravidian politics has come to an end. The place vacated by these leaders is now up for grabs in the state and the new generation of leaders from both DMK and AIADMK factions are ready to snatch the position.
Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader Edappadi K Palaniswami’s government made quite a statement by denying DMK’s plea for allotting Marina as a site for performing the last rites of Karunanidhi. C.N. Annadurai the founder of DMK after whom the famed Anna Square in Marina is named is a revered figure in Tamil Nadu politics. The DMK leaders and even Karunanidhi had expressed the desire to lay to rest near his mentor’s grave as the same honour had been awarded to MG Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa in the past. The Tamil Nadu had earlier rejected the plea forwarded personally by Karunanidhi’s sons MK Stalin and MK Alagiri along with daughter Kanimozhi and senior leaders of the DMK. The incumbent CM had denied their request and instead offered them Gandhi Mandapam in Guindy as a site for carrying out the last rites and building a memorial. He also cited that there were at least three Public Interest Litigations (PIL) filed in the Madras High Court against the custom of building memorials at the Marina.
While the rejection of the CM was overturned by the Madras High Court which has given the go ahead to perform the last rites at the Marina, speculations are on the rise that the decision of the CM were politically driven. For many the public backlash which the CM has faced in the past 24 hours might make this move seem suicidal but Tamil Nadu politics has always been a high stakes game. Here you either go all in or do not enter the game room altogether. Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi had been not just political rivals but had remained mortal enemies, an attempt was made inside the state assembly to disrobe Jayalalitha when DMK was in power, she was also thrown into jail by levelling charges against her. A grand gesture of rivalry indeed which Jayalalitha more than reciprocated by throwing an elderly Karunanidhi in jail, that too at midnight hours when she commanded power in the state. Such blatant cases of revenge politics are not unheard of in the Tamil Nadu political circles. Palaniswami himself reached the heights in AIADMK using Jayalalitha’s close aide Sasikala as a ladder, but then in a bid to grab power he simply took Panneerselvam’s side leaving Sasikala to fend for herself.
The incumbent CM has also unleashed crackdown on Naxal outfits in the state and has also sidelined the church controlled outfits which were attempting to brew trouble in Tamil Nadu. His popularity amongst the blind supporters of his party is high and it will continue to soar with this decision as well. His stance in the matter of Karunanidhi’s burial and memorial will be seen as an affirmation of his reverence for Jayalalitha as well. Who knows what the political drama in the state will churn out in the days to come but one thing is for sure, Palaniswami is now on the centre stage of Tamil Nadu politics and it will be very difficult to sideline him from now on.