Friday, January 15, 2010

Kalaingar’s largesse - IIPM News

Tamil Nadu CM Karunanidhi has no electoral interests in his birthplace. Yet his stamp is visible everywhere in his hometown, writes N. Asokan

Twenty-five kilometers from Thiruvarur, an ancient town in the Chola dynasty heartland, a serpentine road winds through sprawling paddy fields. A signboard of the prestigious Anna University looms into view. This is Thirukuvalai, a small village of only 3,000 people. This is the birthplace of Karunanidhi, five-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

He was born here in 1924. Stories about his perseverance abound. When he was in school, Karunanidhi and a friend dived into the temple tank to swim up to an island temple. By the time they got to the middle of the tank, they were out of breath. The friend suggested that they turn back. But Karunanidhi insisted on swimming on. He argued that the distance to the mandapam and the bank they had started from was the same. So they kept swimming and reached the mandapam. They rested awhile and then swam back safely.

The friend, Thennan, is 80 today. Currently the chairman of Tiruvarur municipality, he remains one of Karunanidhi’s best friends. He remembers their schooldays vividly. Karunanidhi was only 13 when he launched an organisation to propagate rational thought among youngsters. His activities marked him out as a natural leader. With the passage of years, the young Dravidian politician attracted the attention of stalwarts like Annadurai and Periyar. He soon became a pan-Tamil Nadu leader thanks to his writings and oratorical skills.

Karunanidhi's links with Thirukuvalai remain intact to this day. “Whenever he in the vicinity, he visits us," says Thennan. On the wall of his house are pictures of himself taken with Karunanidhi. ''Back then, he would go around on a bicycle campaigning for Periyar's principles. Once in a village called Odachery, a pillaiyar temple (Ganesh Mandir) was destroyed by an expanding banyan tree. Seeing this, he quipped: This tree has done what Periyar didn't do."

Thennan says: “When TN's first-ever Central University was sanctioned recently, it came to Thiruvarur becaue of Karunanidhi. He also recently got us a government medical college."

Interestingly, neither Karunanidhi nor any family member has ever contested an election from Thiruvarur. Though DMK was formed in 1949, it plunged into electoral politics only in 1957.

“We took time to assess his chances in Nagappattinam because Thiruvarur was a reserved constituency. But Annadurai got him to contest from Kuliththalai constituency in another district,” recalls Thennan.

In his public life spanning over 70 years, Karunanidhi has never lost an election. He has contested from six different Assembly constituencies. He currently represents Chepauk in Chennai, from where he has won thrice in succession.

Karunanidhi's home turf is in the tail-end of the Cauvery delta. Early in his political career, he was instrumental in bringing water to this area. He did so by outwitting the landlords along the river who refused to let the Cauvery water flow past until their land was irrigated. In 1967, Karunanidhi became minister for public works. That year a local functionary wrote a letter seeking corrective action.
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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2009

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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