by Sachi Sri Kantha, August 9, 2018
The expected death of Muthuvel Karunanidhi (1924-2018), at the age of 94, saddened me. Make no doubt about this. I have been a strong critic of Karunanidhi’s politics, since 1972, when he expelled MGR from the DMK party. Nevertheless, I have always appreciated his contributions to Tamil literary exposition, script writing for Tamil movies and his overall acumen and guile. In this site, I have criticized Karunanidhi’s political flip flops in the ‘Quo Vadis Karunanidhi’ series –
part 3 (http://sangam.org/quo-vadis-karunanidhi/).
Here, I assemble 7 cartoons which have presented Karunanidhi’s politics since 1972. First six cartoons I present below was drawn by Ananda Vikatan magazine’s cartoonist M.K. Govinthakumar (pen name Mathan). His cartoons began to appear from 1969 – the year Karunanidhi assumed the leadership of DMK party, following the death of it’s founder C.N. Annadurai (Anna). DMK faced its first split in October, when MGR was expelled.
Mathan cartoon 1 (1972 Oct. 22)
Anna’s call to his younger ‘siblings’ was to maintain Kadamai (Duty), Kanniam (Dignity) and Kattupaadu (Discipline). That MGR and Karunanidhi pay little regard to Anna’s words was depicted in this cartoon. At that time, the arch for Anna’s mausoleum was about to be completed. Thus the cartoonist had portrayed this aptly with the planks, carried by MGR (‘It’s your duty to show accounts.’) on the left and Karunanidhi (‘There is no discipline in what you ask!’) on the right. Anna’s ghost in the middle raising both hands saying in dismay ‘Even in expressing differences, there should be dignity!’
Mathan cartoon 2 (1973 June 6)
First political test to DMK came in June 1973 in the version of Dindigal by-election to the Lok Sabha constituency. Four primary parties, namely MGR’s Anna DMK, DMK, Kamaraj’s ‘Old Congress’ and Indira Gandhi’s ‘Indira Congress’ contested this election. The verdict delivered, announced MGR’s arrival in the Tamil Nadu political scene, with the massive victory of his party’s candidate K. Mayathevar in this by-election. Karunanidhi’s candidate was placed third, lower than that of Kamaraj’s ‘Old Congress’ party’s candidate. Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party candidate lost his deposit.
Mathan cartoon 3 (1973 Nov. 4)
Karunanidhi DMK’s primary plank then was ‘Regional autonomy’. In this cartoon, Karunanidhi is shown as a singer the concert, calling out, ‘We need Regional autonomy. What else? Even this should come, with self-respect. What else?’ On hearing this, former chief minister of Madras (M. Bhakthavatsalam) was drawn as blocking his two ears (‘Oh! This song is full of wrong notes!). To this, then No.2 of DMK, R. Nedunchezhiyan playing mridangam was quoted rebutting, ‘Something wrong with your ears!’. The violinist depicted in the cartoon was Ma. Po. Sivagnanam, who was not a member of DMK party, but led his smaller party, ‘Thamil Arasu Kazhagam’.
Mathan cartoon 4 (1977 May 1)
Karunanidhi is shown rowing a boat (DMK) valiantly, with DMK flag. The boat has holes – four holes, indicating splinter parties: AIADMK, led by MGR, ADMK (then) led by Kovai Chezhiyan, T.M.K. (then) led by Ms. Sathiavani Muthu, and a new one M.D.M.K., announced by the then No. 2 of DMK, R. Nedunchezhiyan. Subsequently, Nedunchezhiyan and Ms. Sathiavani Muthu, joined MGR’s party.
Mathan cartoon 5 (1983 Jan 2)
Again, the setting of the cartoon was a competitive music concert.
Minister R. Nedunchezhiyan had announced in news, that ‘Musical festivals (concerts) will be held year around’. With the common man sitting in the middle, both Karunanidhi and MGR were shown as singers. Karunanidhi on the left singing, “Incompetent You- should resign your post. Sa ri ga ma pa tha ni – You resign!’. MGR on the right singing, ‘You who ruled with corruption, close your mouth. Sa ri ga ma pa tha ni – Close your mouth! Please note the word play in the 7 musical notes, with the ending 7th note (Ni) also means (You). This cartoon appeared during MGR’s second tenure as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
Mathan cartoon 6 (1983 Aug 28)
This cartoon appeared during the 1983 anti-Tamil riots of Sri Lanka. Both MGR and Karunanidhi were shown as fighting with each other using the Eelam plank, like a pillow fight for their prominence and glory.
Ninan cartoon 7 (1998 Oct 12)
Ajit Ninan’s cartoon that appeared in the ‘India Today’ magazine aptly caricatured Karunanidhi as a political chameleon – all things to all guys and changing colors constantly. One of the best that I admired. It neatly summarized Karunanidhi’s political career since 1983.