by Sachi Sri Kantha, August 13, 2018
I provide seven additional cartoons from Thinamani daily’s cartoonist Mathi (b. 1968), compiled in his 2010 book. These cartoons cover M. Karunanidhi’s political deeds from 1998 to 2009. In 1998 (at the age of 74), he was out of power. In 2009 (at the age of 85!), he was holding the Chief Minister position of Tamil Nadu, for the 5th time. Nevertheless, by 1998, he was living in the past glory of his deeds from 1950s and the first half of 1960s, as an ex-champion of Tamil rights.
I may be harsh here. It is my opinion that Karunanidhi simply couldn’t grasp the bare facts that two whom he considered as upstarts [Jayalalitha (1948-2016) and Prabhakaran (1954-2009)] had usurped him from holding the crown of internationally renowned Tamil leader. As MGR was chronologically older to him, he was reluctantly willing to share the global Tamil leader rank, until MGR’s death. But the rise of Jayalalitha as the Chief Minister in 1991, and Prabhakaran as a military leader fighting both the Sri Lankan and Indian armies, rankled Karunanidhi’s pride. In protest politics, what he could show as a hero for ‘Tamil liberation’ and self respect was his singular achievement of lying in a railway track to protest against the naming of a town Dalmiyapuram, near Tiruchirapalli, and agitating to name the railway station as Kallakudi. Agitations of minor degree were ‘black flag demonstrations’ against Pundit Nehru in 1950s and protest against the imposition of Hindi language in 1965 and courting arrest. All the rest were political hyperbole in platforms and alliterative word play in Tamil to cajole the illiterate voters to vote for DMK. Here, I critique Karunnidhi’s politics only, and not his contributions to the Tamil journalism, exposition of ancient Tamil literature, autobiography literature in Tamil and script writing skills for Tamil movies and stage dramas.
Karunanidhi’s political acts for the past 20 years (since 1998) were mainly concentrated in (1) bartering with the political players from the North India (whatever party label they had – be it United Front or BJP or Congress), for a share in Central government’s rule. (2) promoting the political careers the next two generations of his immediate family and sister’s family, at the expense of the party he led. These seven cartoons tell this story. Among these 7, two were related to the 2009 events in Eelam, criticizing Karunanidhi’s care-free attitude when much was expected from him, while he was holding the Chief Minister rank.
Mathi cartoon #8 (1998 Dec. 20)
This cartoon plays on the family background of Karunanidhi. He belonged to Isai Velalar origin in Tamil Nadu. Isai Velalar group traditionally played wind instruments in the temples. He, Karunanidhi is shown as trying out 8 different Nagaswaram he had around him, and saying ‘Bad! Nothing is giving a good pitch now.’ It was cartoonist’s dig at Karunanidhi’s opportunistic politics of collaboration with the parties at the Central government.
Mathi cartoon #9 (2004 Jan. 4)
Karunanidhi, dressed in the garb of Hindu religion’s swamy role, telling to his son Stalin nearby, “Enough of this role. Next, let me have that garb hanging there ‘Non-religious dress, with a cross necklace and the Islam hat’. Cartoonist’s dig was that Karunanidhi was about to leave the Hindutva-BJP group to affiliate with the Congress party. It also plays on Karunanidhi’s pre-politician avatar as a stage actor.
Mathi cartoon #10 (2004 Mar. 4)
This cartoon plays on the word ‘Sun’ with ‘Son’. The rising sun is the symbol of DMK party. In this party, Karunanidhi had made sure that next to him, the succeeding leaders of the party has to be his son Stalin and grand son Udayanidhi Stalin (a movie actor).
Mathi cartoon #11 (2004 May 10)
This cartoon tagged as ‘South Indian Political Map’ indicates that Karunanidhi had split the Tamil Nadu into two, represented by his two sons – the top half belonging to younger son Stalin (tagged as Stalin Nadu) and the bottom half belonging to elder son Alagiri (tagged as Alagiri Nadu). Subsequently, Alagiri fell out with his dad, and was removed from DMK party in 2014.
Mathi cartoon #12 (2009 Jan. 21)
This cartoon appeared, when Karunanidhi was holding the chief minister position, and had some degree of influence in India’s foreign policy decisions, as DMK was an ally of the then ruling
Congress Party. Karunanidhi’s reactions to each of the five news reports that appeared then have been depicted with reality by the cartoonist. From top left, in clockwise direction, the described actions of Karunanidhi stated in one word, were as follows:
Newsreport: Sri Lankan army attack. Continued killing of Tamilnadu fishermen – Silence!
Newsreport: Indian government will help and train Sri Lankan army – Support!
Newsreport: Sinhalese army engaged in killing and attack in Tamil regions – Poetry!
Newsreport: Continuing genocide. Majority Eelam Tamils in death grip – Care-free!
Newsreport: Kilinochi had fallen . Mullaitivu encircled – Joke!
This cartoon presented neatly the reality that for all his chest-thumping postures, time-limited fasting act and bleating on Eelam Tamils, Karunanidhi’s concern was nothing but skin deep.
Mathi cartoon #13 (2009 Feb. 4)
In two panels, cartoonist had presented, how the DMK party had changed under Karunanidhi. Top row shows, the then designated Top Five Leaders (individually named, Annadurai, Nedunchezhiyan, E.V.K. Sampath, Mathiazhagan and N.V. Natarajan). Karunanidhi was not among these five. Bottom row shows the currently ‘designated’ Top Five Leaders (without naming them invidividually). But, it’s for sure, Karunanidhi, Stalin (son), Alagiri (son), Dayanithi Maran (grand nephew, son of Murasoli Maran) and Kanimozhi (daughter).
Mathi cartoon #14 (2009 Mar. 9)
Cartoonist had depicted DMK and ADMK parties as two crocodiles, shedding crocodile tears, on the plight of Eelam Tamils being killed. The DMK crocodile on the right (with Karunanidhi’s face) telling, ‘I’ve been crying for long’, and the ‘tears’ shed indicate that. The ADAMk crocodile on the left (with Jayalalitha’s face) telling, ‘I too am crying’. The indicated amount of tears from Jayalalitha seems dwarfed by Karunanidhi’s tears!
Two facts need mention. First, fate would have it that though he served as the Tamil Nadu’s chief minister for 19 years, the Grim Reaper didn’t touch Karunanidhi; in this, he differed from his mentor Anna and the two (MGR and Jayalalitha) who succeeded him. Secondly, though it was a remarkable record for him not to lose a single election he contested, not even once Karunanidhi could repeat his electoral success, while holding the chief minister rank. He faced the electorate as the chief minister on his own in 1971 for the first time. While holding the chief minister rank, MGR was continuously elected to the chief minister position twice in 1980 and 1984. Kamaraj and Jayalalitha were able to achieve this once, in 1962 and 2016 respectively.
Mathi Cartoons, Kizhakku (New Horizon Media Pvt. Ltd), Chennai, 2010.