(Published in Millennium Post on 5 June, 2012, retrieved from http://millenniumpost.in/NewsContent.aspx?NID=3429)
The Grand Old Man of the DMK turned 89 on June 3, and the crown of currency notes that his cadres planted on his pate seemed rather symbolic of the scams and allegations of corruption that have led to his downfall.
For the five years preceding Jayalalithaa’s ascent to power, Karunanidhi’s birthday was celebrated in lavish style, complete with traffic jams, ubiquitous posters, and felicitation functions. This time, though, even the sycophantic slogans seemed to be searching for successors.
Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, sons Stalin and Tamizharasu, and grand-nephew Dayanidhi Maran, with whom the family has a love-hate relationship, featured almost more prominently on the posters than the patriarch himself. His son Azhagiri, who’s fighting a succession battle with brother Stalin, was seen neither in person nor on paper.
This year, the jibes began even before the birthday celebrations. Karunanidhi, who traditionally writes a ‘birthday message’ in his party mouthpiece Murasoli, sent it out on May 23, though the editorial was dated June 3. While his age and the paper’s editorial team were at the receiving end of sardonic analyses, it didn’t take long for columnists to figure out May 23 was his ‘star birthday’, going by the Hindu almanac. Was the self-proclaimed atheist turning to superstition in dotage?
Two days before Karunanidhi’s birthday, Stalin announced the launch of a website, www.wishthalaivar.com, to allow the hoi polloi to greet his father. The website, which is apparently an initiative of the DMK student wing, carries a poorly-constructed obsequious poem, devoid of meter, which roughly translates into:
That the gift Time has bestowed on Tamilians
Is Kalaignar, is obvious
His life is our foundation
Signed, the Student Army that forever stands by him
The day after his birthday, there is no counter to indicate the number of wishes conveyed to him, and the website is dominated by photographs of Karunanidhi and Stalin grinning at each other, and tiny thumbnails of Annadurai and EV Ramaswamy, known as Periyar among DMK cadres.
The birthday celebrations were poorly attended too. Azhagiri boycotted the function, while Kanimozhi didn’t attend, despite being granted permission to by the CBI special court hearing the 2G case in which she is accused. More than half the chairs at the public meeting held in KK Nagar – the area in the city Karunanidhi named after himself – were empty, and the octogenarian cut a ridiculous figure posing with the currency notes to paltry applause and scattered cameras.
Even his speech smacked of defeat. Before harping on the ADMK’s policies, he said, “The DMK is not a party that exists only to win elections. It is a party that exists to fight for the self respect of the people. Our battles will continue even without elections.” He went on to make token references to Tamil Eelam, before going on the defensive with regard to his alliance with the Congress.
He said the DMK would not compromise or sell out to allies, and offered as proof the strike his party had organised against the petrol hike. He blamed the AIADMK for increasing taxes on milk, food and water, and said Jayalalithaa had no right to ask for a rollback on petrol prices.
Watching this man fall back on rhetoric from a stage designed to resemble his home study, with five-hundred rupee notes ringing his head, it was pretty obvious that the days of the DMK – and its patriarch – are fast fading.