Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Aug 2018 11:30:24

THE passing away of Mr. M. Karunanidhi at the ripe old age of 94 after a prolonged illness marks the end of an era in national and Dravidian politics. Even though he was ill and almost out of circulation for sometime before the end came, Kalaignar, as he was fondly and popularly called, acted as an eternal reference point in the process of political polarisation that the country witnessed in the past some time. He was a totem pole of Dravidian thought in which confluenced not just political ideology but also the age-old cultural ethos and historical perspective.

Dravidian politics has had many a great personality but there has been none in even partial likeness of Mr. M. Karunanidhi. He may have ruled the Government in Tamil Nadu off and on, but Kalaignar ruled Tamil hearts for full three generations -- through his compassionate leadership of masses, through his astute political management, through his awesome contribution to Tamil literature by way of his writing for films, and through his consummate leadership of masses that were fully convinced of his ability to show them a lighted path. His passing away, therefore, leaves behind a void that can never be filled. He was unique. He was the one the like of whom can never be found anywhere. 

When Ms. Jayaram Jayalalitha, another iconic personality in the Tamil and national arena, passed away a little over a year ago, the Tamilian population still had one more tall figure left in their midst. But now, it has none, and is not likely to have in quite some time to come. Such personages are born only in quite a while. Others may own big names, though, but do not have those very special attributes of which legends like Mr. Karunanidhi are made. Dravidian and Indian civilisations would miss Mr. Karunanidhi from this moment on.

National politics is taking a curious turn at this moment. The process of polarisation is getting more and more venomous. Even when the two polarising camps are taking extreme and even raucous positions, Mr. Karunanidhi -- no matter his political leaning at a given moment -- acted like reasonable points of reference with whose help it was possible to keep sanity intact in a maddening politics. Whether he agreed with a camp or disagreed with another, Mr. Karunanidhi was always one political person with whom it was possible to have an effective communication and a truly bipartisan dialogue. His polish, his ability to maintain a connect, his personal magnetism were the terrific attributes of the man who preferred to don thick-rimmed black goggles all along -- as if wishing to filter the dirty colours of grimy politics and taken in only the desirable.

Tamil politics will no longer the same now. By that standard, some critical change would come over in national politics as well. But each time the Tamil politics would take an uglier turn, people in both camps would remember Mr. M. Karunanidhi who started his life writing fictional scripts for Tamilian movies but later switched over to writing real-life political best-sellers through politics of a crafty but superior variety.

It was strange that the Tamil Nadu Government took a strange stand not to allow the Dravida Munetra Kazagham (DMK) sought permission for the burial of its grand old man on the Marina Beach in Chennai. A High Court verdict did clear the issue, but not before the episode gave the nation an early taste of the nature of politics that would descend upon Tamil Nadu from now onwards. The only hope is that it does not take so ugly a turn that the Tamilian society stands divided vertically. Much will, of course, depend upon how the national parties engage themselves in the Tamil political narrative. If that happens in an ugly manner, it, too, will prove to be yet another point of reference to Mr. M. Karunanidhi.