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Karunanidhi had ability to inspire loyalty and that loyalty never left him

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK Supremo M Karunanidhi passed away on August 7, 2018, in Chennai
In over 70 years of his political life, Karunanidhi contributed immensely to establishing social justice platform and encouraging Tamil language in the state. For the last 40 years, from 1975 onwards, there have been only three major players in the Tamil Nadu politics - Karunanidhi, MGR and Jayalalithaa. With Karunanidhi's death, there is a huge vacuum in the politics of the state and who is going to fill that vacuum is a big question. Though Mr Stalin is certainly pre-eminent among those who are there now, he himself admits that he has not reached the same height as his father. Only time will tell whether Stalin would be able to develop the party in the long term.

Whether you liked him or not, Karunanidhi was a force in Tamil Nadu politics. He had a never-say-die spirit. He was able to keep the party together even though they had long spells out of power. Between January 1976, when the DMK government was dismissed, and 1989, almost 13 years they were out of power and they lost three elections- in 1977, 1980 and 1984- but still he was able to keep the party together. He had the ability to inspire loyalty and that loyalty never left him. The ability he showed to keep the party cadre motivated is a lesson for any political leader in India.

DMK as a party in its early days was probably a left-of-centre party and extremely pro-labour, but when in power, they had a pragmatic industrial policy. Karunanidhi never tried to junk a scheme just because it was initiated by the previous government. If the scheme was beneficial to the state, he always promoted it.

Tamil Nadu under the DMK and AIADMK governments has grown as one of the most industrialised states in the country and that is why the social indices also improved. The GDP numbers have improved over the years. And Karunanidhi was the Chief Minister for almost 18-19 years. He had a great influence on the industrialisation of the state. Both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa were supportive of the industry and continued the projects started by the previous government. There has been a continuation in terms of policy and credit goes to both of them. The political dispute between Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa never became a hindrance to the growth of the industry in the state.

Karunanidhi's influence on the national politics was very evident, predominantly during the UPA regime 2004-2013.

There has been an orderly transition within the DMK and Stalin is now in complete control of the party. So succession plan would not be a major issue after Karunanidhi's death. Last two to three years, Kalaignar was not in active politics anyway. There won't be a huge impact on the political situation in the state in the near term. In the longer term, it will depend on the kind of leadership that Stalin provides.

The government should have allowed the burial at Marina at the first instance itself as there is no court stay on the memorial in Marina and the cases have also been withdrawn. The government should have been magnanimous. The controversy over his burial may fuel new-found enmity between DMK and AIADMK. There was a perception that the enmity was on a decline after Stalin visited Jayalalithaa when she was admitted to the hospital.

(Sumanth C Raman is a political analyst)

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal. They do not reflect the view/s of Business Standard.


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