Expulsion from DMK
by Sachi Sri Kantha, August 27, 2020
I provide the exchange I had with friend and fellow MGR biographer R. Kannan. In his email of June 24th, he had noted,
Read chapter 56 with interest and could imagine why this must have been difficult without all the source material. I don’t think Indira Gandhi really cared for MGR or Kalaignar. I think from where she stood these were small players except in 1979 when Thanjavur in TN looked like the safest place to return to Parliament. The 1972 split was inevitable. The party was too small for two leaders. Mohan Kumaramangalam I think played a decisive role in breaking the DMK. He and CS I think felt that Kalaignar had to be put in his place. MGR’s difficulties came in handy. MGR was wooed by Gundu Rao briefly but unsuccessfully. Otherwise, I am not sure MGR ever thought of a party or merging it with the Congress.”
While Kannan refers to Karunanidhi.by the popular moniker ‘Kalaignar’[The Artist], by preference I refer the DMK leader by his initials, as MK. The following day (June 25th) I sent my response, as follows:
I appreciate your kind thoughts on part 56, and of course agree with the angle you present. With your permission, I’ll include your sentences without deletion. Still, I have to cover some space between 1972 and 1977, including MGR’s visit to USA and 1975 Emergency declaration.
It’s my impression that MK overplayed his card in 1971. Suppose, if he had voluntarily given 20-30 seats to Indira at the state assembly elections, situation could have turned out to be different. According to Kannadasan’s memoirs, MK was expecting to reap only 160 seats, but he was showered with over 180 seats. I also feel, that until Kamaraj was alive, Indira did take serious interest in MK and MGR, in an alliance with them.”
I’ll answer Kannan’s contention ‘whether Indira Gandhi really cared for ‘MGR or Kalaignar’ promptly in the forthcoming chapters. By opting not to join Indira Congress Party, after his expulsion from DMK, MGR played a straight game with Indira, so as not to betray the trust of his fan base. Indira might have anticipated a Sampath of early 1960s (who merged with Congress, his breakaway party from DMK). in MGR of early 1970s. But, this wouldn’t happen. Thus, unlike run of the mill politicians in other Indian states, MGR couldn’t be deposed easily from the chief ministership. How MGR tackled Indira Gandhi’s wiles, let’s hear from Dr. H.V. Hande (see below; 30 min YouTube speech). At the urging of Karunanidhi, Indira did play the dismissal game once with MGR in 1980, and burnt her fingers.
Details of MGR’s speeches from Karunanidhi’s autobiography
For this chapter, I make use of the texts of MGR’s speeches, provided in Karunanidhi’s autobiography. In the previous chapter, I had noted that this particular source had to be used with caution, while taking advantage of it’s merits. In five chapters, Karunanidhi had provided his version on why MGR had to be expelled from the DMK party in October 1972. The captions of these five chapters were,
Ch. 47: Beginning of dishonesty
Ch. 48: Before the Storm
Ch. 49: Deeds that exceeded the Discipline
Ch. 50: Anger of the Executive Committee
Ch. 51: No other route: Expelled!
Within these chapters, Karunanidhi had included the extracts of public speeches MGR had made, in praising DMK and its leadership under Karunanidhi, between June 1971 and August 1972. The details were,
June 1971: a speech MGR had made at his constituency St. Thomas Mount, while naming a section as ‘Karunanidhipuram’, and opening the name board.
Apr. 8-9, 1972: a speech MGR made at the DMK’s regional conference at Chingleput [Chengalpattu]
Apr. 27, 1972: a speech MGR made at Pallavapuram, during the Drinking Water Foundation Stone laying function.
July 28, 1972: MGR’s thanksgiving speech at the DMK’s felicitation meeting, on the occasion of his accomplishment in receiving the Bharat award.
Aug.5-6, 1972: a speech MGR made at DMK’s Madurai regional conference assembly.
For record, translated excerpts from the June 1971 speech are given below, which highlighted the camaraderie that prevailed between MGR and Karunanidhi, since mid 1940s. MGR had mentioned the following:
“With the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, I have had a twenty year relationship. Then, I was at Kovai [Coimbatore]. As there was a plague disease scare then, Kalaignar had sent his family to native village, and stayed with me. At that time, the rent was only 12 rupees. We lived together. He belonged to the self-respect movement, while I was affiliated to the Congress. Then, I was trying to pull him, to my side. But, what happened eventually? I was pulled to this side. Now, he has become the president of Kazhagam, and I have become the treasurer.
It will be an error if anyone thinks that he had achieved fame now, because he had become the chief minister. Even before he reached the current standing, he had achieved fame. While living at Kovai many years ago, he wrote script for the movies Rajakumari and Abhimanyu. But, he didn’t receive due credit for that. Just because he was not duly recognized, he was not crest fallen. He continued to deliver his best, because he felt satisfied that though his name didn’t receive recognition, his thoughts did receive recognition. He never failed to infuse his thoughts in the scripts he wrote. He worked hard, under the leadership of his recognized leader. When it comes to policy differences, he never failed to argue against either Anna or me. In addition, when the party had faced trouble, he never relegated his duties, and stood in the front, even at a risk to his life….When some receive a public position, the state withers. But, because of the position Kalaignar has now, the state blooms. Poor and down-trodden looks up to him, for their welfare….There will be time, when he will earn his glory for his public services. His name is a combination of love (karunai) and wealth (nithi). Thus, it is appropriate that this section receives it’s name from this great guy.”
While reading the text of this speech, almost 50 years later, one can infer that MGR had been magnanimous to Karunanidhi’s achievements, and not denigrating the past records of his then pal. But, what did Karunanidhi do, in return to MGR, after he achieved the zenith of his career in 1971? He hardly showed the magnanimity for MGR’s contribution to the party since 1953, especially during the 1971 State Assembly elections.
Irritants that caused MGR’s displeasure with Karunanidhi
Karunanidhi attempted his best to under-cut the influence MGR had among the party cadres and tweaked MGR’s nerves. In his autobiography, Karunanidhi had portrayed MGR as a thigh-shaking, weak-willed individual (despite his movie image as a strong hero), who would back-stab the party for his selfish needs. While offering only the speeches MGR had made praising his leadership of DMK, Karunanidhi had deftly omitted the following events which occurred between March 1971 and October 1972 that served as irritants. These irritants caused MGR’s displeasure.
- Inclusion of lawyer-journalist Si. Pa. Adithan, in the 13 member Cabinet, as Minister for Cooperation, Cinematograph Act.
- Releasing actor M.R. Radha, one month ahead of time, from prison on April 29, 1971, without consulting MGR. Radha was serving sentence for the Jan. 1967 assassination attempt on MGR.
- Promoting his son M.K. Muthu, in Tamil cinema as a ‘new face’ replacement for MGR, and attempting to hijack thousands of MGR’s fan clubs to service the popularity of his son by mild threats and inducements. The shooting for Muthu’s debut movie, ‘Pillaiyo Pillai’ [Son Oh Son] began on October 21, 1971, and it was released on June 23, 1972. It was MGR himself, who opened the shooting, with the ceremonial clicking of the clap-board.
Though MGR advised Muthu that for success in this competitive field, Muthu should promote his own originality and not imitate others. Nevertheless, Muthu’s performance in the ‘Pillaiyo Pillai’ movie, especially in the song sequences, reminded the Tamil movie fans that he was simply a carbon copy of MGR. An example is the song, ‘Eezhiyin siripil Iraivan- Irupathai sonnaan Thalaivan’ [In the smiles of poor God lives, said the Leader]. The leader in the lyric was Anna, and like MGR’s song sequences, Muthu was also framed in front of Anna’s bust statue. Like that of many MGR’s solo songs, lyrics was by Vaali and singer was T.M. Soundararajan. The YouTube clip for this song is as follows:
- Relaxing the prohibition on alcoholic drinks in the state, on August 30, 1971 (i.e., working against the campaign pledge of the party to voters in retaining prohibition). While MGR opted for retaining prohibition, Karunanidhi with an eye on revenue enhancement to the Treasury vaults wanted the opposite.
- Condoning corruption among party cadres.
Two additional features in Karunanidhi’s script which deserve notice are;
- It was politicians belonging to Indira Congress unit of Tamil Nadu, especially Mohan Kumaramangalam (1916-1973) and Chidambaram Subramaniam (1910 – 2000), who wanted MGR out of DMK. Karunanidhi was harsh on Kumaramangalam, who had been elected from the Pondichery constituency for Lok Sabha, with DMK’s support. They had blackmailed MGR for improprieties in foreign exchange dealing (due to the shooting expenses of Ulagam Suttrum Valiban movie) and income tax payment dues owed by MGR. Being weak-willed, MGR fell for their plot, while superficially showing allegiances to the party in his speeches, between June 1971 and August 1972.
- while Karunanidhi presents himself as a reasonable and sensitive guy who would be ‘fair’ to MGR despite the latter’s violation of party principles, he had to give in to the wishes of DMK’s other leaders (especially V.K. Nedunchezhian, Ms. Satyavani Muthu and Madurai Muthu) who were hell bent on expelling MGR from the party.
Those interested in the conflict between MGR and Karunanidhi during 1972, and why MGR was expelled from DMK may benefit by listening to the views of Dr. H.V. Hande (b 1927). This nonagenarian health care worker cum politician has been elected as an MLA at the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly elections in 1967 and 1971 and served as Minister of Health in MGR’s Cabinet, between 1980 and 1987. Two YouTube videos (speeches in Tamil) are available.
A 20 min speech of Dr. Hande, summarizing his political journey is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vc8K6orRQ6M.
A 30 min speech of Dr. Hande, on MGR is available at
It should also be noted that Dr. Hande lost to Karunanidhi at the 1980 Tamil Nadu assembly election at the Anna Nagar constituency, by a whisker of 699 votes.
Face to face disagreement in August 1972
According to Karunanidhi, face to face disagreement arose during the preparation for the scheduled DMK’s regional conference in Madurai (Aug. 1972). It related to MGR’s request to allow Jayalalitha to be seated at the stage of the Conference.
Karunanidhi had written, “Few days before [conference], MGR visited my house. He talked an important item then. MGR told me that he wanted to enlist one woman who has been acting as his heroine in the movies as a member of DMK [note by Sachi: though Karunanidhi don’t mention the name, it’s obvious, the reference was to Jayalalitha]. He emphasized that this woman should attend the Madurai Conference, and she should be seated in the front row, and Karunanidhi should let the conference invitation committee member Madurai Muthu know about this.
I explained, O’ my dear. Dravidar front cannot withstand these. Will you please think with patience? Don’t you know Madurai Muthu? He was the one who gave you the Golden sword prize. As such, why not talk to him directly? He would also say the same thing like me. He wouldn’t agree, I did emphasize.
MGR didn’t leave the issue then. He himself contacted Madurai Muthu on phone. Muthu had emphatically denied MGR’s request. He had told, I’d stop that person at the entrance of the Conference gate. Even, S.S. Rajendran, tagged as the actor with ideals, also expressed his strong disagreement. Due to further opposition from Navalar Nedunchezhian and Professor [K. Anbazhagan], MGR dropped the idea of bringing that heroine movie star to the conference. Nevertheless, his subsequent activities indicated that his resentment on this issue had become galvanized.”
Karunanidhi further presented excerpts of the speech MGR made at this Conference, as follows:
“Those who were determined to betray the cause, would present themselves as sincere followers, isn’t it? Even Judas, who betrayed Jesus Christ also behaved similarly, isn’t it? MGR’s speech was like a war drum against the Central government. He asked,
‘Congress folks call this a corrupt government. Is this a corrupt rule? – he asked the audience. ‘No! No! –was the loud response from the gathering. He replied, ‘Makkal Theerpae, Mahesan Theerpu’ [Voice of the People is the Voice of God].
Someone said that there is a plot to dissolve the government. What I had not mentioned, is being presented, to induce this angle. Rather than meeting us at the scheduled date and time for an election, if a situation is created to hold a election – induced by Mohan Kumaramangalam or C. Subramaniam, I ask you mothers and well wishers, friends of Kazhagam, will you permit this to happen? Suppose if that situation arise, Tamil Nadu will meet the army.
You all have to decide what are the main reasons for dismissing this government? Kalaignar don’t show the straight chest these days. He had given up too much for others. Though his body had bended, his mind remains straight. He remains silent for events around him. He had controlled his tongue, so as not to find fault with others. These probably are lessons from what we learnt from Anna.
MGR: Regional autonomy
Audience: We’ll get it!
MGR: Tamil Nadu government
Audience: We’ll protect it!
MGR: Under Kalaignar’s leadership
Audience: We’ll follow.”
One who spoke like this at August, by September had softened to complete his deed, and finish the work for the Central government.”
In my reading, the message of what I had indicated above in italics, as MGR’s speech at that Madurai conference, had to be taken figuratively. To present his case, Karunanidhi had interpreted it as literally. MGR (as one who had been familiar with scripts for dramas and movies) had euphemistically presented his case against the corruption in Karunanidhi’s circle.
Text of MGR’s explosive speech on Oct. 8, 1972
The speech MGR made on October 8, 1972 at a meeting held at Thousand Lights, Chennai, to felicitate Anna’s 63rd birthday, turnout out to be his parting shots to Karunanidhi and DMK. Karunanidhi had noted that, M. Aranganathan, MC presided. After the speeches made by Parthasarathi MC, secretary for Thousand Lights constituency George, Alandur Mohanarangam, K. A. Krishnaswami, Kovai Chezhian, R.M. Veerappan, Nanjilar [Nanjil Manoharan]. Speaker of assembly K.A. Mathiazhagan, MGR spoke last. It may be noted that except for the first three mentioned (who were lesser known), the remaining individuals joined MGR’s breakaway party from DMK. The Tamil original is presented nearby as a pdf file. Karunanidhi had included the entire text, in his autobiography as well.
The English translation of MGR’s speech is as follows:
“The feeling that I had when I spoke at Thirukazhukunram (town), what I had been made to talk there, the same situation I sense here too. There, I had opened the statue of Arignar Anna and given a talk and came here. Thus, I had met Anna there, and had come here. With Anna’s permission, I speak here.
Someone said that Madurai Muthu had joined Indira Congress [party]. I asked, isn’t it that today Chief Minister Karunanidhi will be felicitating him in Madurai. I don’t know. Here the business is not so good. So, he had gone there, to [continue] the business. Details will become clear after 15th. Few truths will come out, due to this sort of mixing the gravy.
I said, ‘MGR is DMK. DMK is MGR’. Immediately someone asked, ‘Aren’t we in DMK?’ I tell this. You can also tell this. You have the rights to say. I have the rights to say. Just because you don’t have courage, don’t make a coward.
If you have courage, you can tell, ‘I’m DMK’. I don’t deny it. The question arises, ‘I’m the ‘only’ DMK’. I regret that there some Tamils who have got entangled in this party, but don’t know the difference. These are all unnecessary. When Mathi[azhagan] spoke, he said, while I’m serving in arts area, I should also work actively in politics. Some cannot tolerate, even at the level I work in politics now. Suppose, if I engage in little more, how will they survive? They have to be sympathized.
Earlier, I said one, Kamaraj was the leader, and Anna was the guide post. There can be many leaders. For this meeting, Aranganathan presides. For another meeting, another individual can preside. Thus, there can be many leaders. But, there can be only one guide post to offer policies. Now, they accept it.
Anna was the guide post for DMK. Gandhi was the guide post for Congress party. There was a difference in opinion here. Even then, the same Madurai Muthu told, ‘Let’s throw him out’. Throwing out seems a habit. But, whom should be thrown out, is not clear. I tell my friends at Kazhagam. I only meet the public supporters [face to face]. I don’t have the habit of meeting the leaders to uplift my life. My mother, Tamil Nadu and Anna didn’t show me that route. I meet the public supporters. I trust the public. As Anna had stated, ‘Voice of the people is the voice of God’, I trust it.
I had a policy. Earlier, I was in the Congress. After that, for four years, I was in exile, not joining any party. My views were supported in many parties. Finally, I read Anna’s book, Pana thottam [Money Garden]. The economic policies presented there, I came to agree as the correct one. This made me to become a member of Kazhagam. Poet Kannadasan says, Karunanidhi brought me to the party. Poor soul! The one who introduced me to Anna was D.V. N [Narayanaswamy]. There would be debate between Karunanidhi and me. I would talk about Congress. Once, I accepted the Communist policies and was a radical. While there was train debacles, I’d have known about it. What not? But, when Communists, at the urging of Russia bad mouthed Nethaji, I broke off the lings. I realized that the politics of Indian subcontinent should be decided within Indian subcontinent. Thus, after recognizing different trends, I realized that it was Anna’s policies which were suited for the state. When I came to know Anna, I had sacred ash in my forehead and observed the conference held at St. Mary’s hall under the auspices of Periyar for two days.
I never changed my policies, in fear of anyone. There was no need for it. During the election time, I pleaded to voters while saying that we’ll promote these policies, if we get elected. Don’t one has the right to say now that we need to fulfil those promises. Please vote for Kazhagam, and we will fulfil these pledges. There wouldn’t be corruption, and we will be true to ourselves. Don’t I have the right to wish and say that openly? They have fear that MGR will leave DMK. My questions seems irritating to someone. To someone, my questions are confusing. We say that ministers as well as member of parliaments and member of legislative assembly should show accounts. But, why shouldn’t the central committee of DMK ask how much assets their relatives had acquired?
Suppose if Ramachandran has a bungalow, was it acquired after the party captured the power? Or was it there, before the elections? Can’t one ask this? Suppose if my wife or relatives have assets, how was it acquired? The secretaries representing the regions, sections and branch, how did they get them? Ramachandran acts in cinema and earn. If you earn, please show the accounts. Our opposition parties need not ask this. Lets ask ourselves. I plan to submit resolutions to the general committee. People are on my side. If this resolution doesn’t get support, I’ll formulate this question all over Tamilnadu. I’ll meet people.
Regional secretaries, section secretaries, branch secretaries, those who are in positions – those who have purchased assets should show accounts. They should explain, how they acquired them. The general committee should pass it, set up a committee, and everyone should prove to people that their hands are clean. Suppose if they cannot prove this, we’ll let them stand in front of the people and dispose them. Those who tainted Anna’s policies need to be exposed and disposed. I’ll see you after 15th.”
Admittedly, this was NOT one of MGR’s best public speeches. It was rambling. It was rambling and disjointed. Maybe, he was in an agitated state of mind, and didn’t prepare well, to place his charges against Karunanidhi.
Expulsion from DMK
Karunanidhi had written that, while he was at Madurai, from different regions of Tamil Nadu, progenitors of Kazhagam contacted him to show their disapproval of MGR’s speech and demanded immediate action. 26 among the 31 Central committee members of the party offered written complaint against MGR and demanded immediate action. The names of all 26 was listed by Karunanidhi. Among these, the prominent ones were, Madurai Muthu, K. Rajaram, P.U. Shanmugam, Neelanarayanan, Sadiq Pasha, Mrs. Sathiavani Muthu, Prof. K. Anbazhagan, Anbil Dharmalingam, Mannai Narayanaswami, N.V. Nadarajan, Farooq Marakkayar (Chief Minister of Pondicherry), A.V.P. Asaithambi and Kanji Kalyanasundaram.
Karunanidhi’s version follows:
“While there was a hot debate on this issue, Navalar Nedunchezhiyan and N.V. Nadarajan (NVN), prepared a short press release. After listening to it, I told that tentatively lets note that the criticism of Central committee was accepted and it was decided that the President and secretary will speak with MGR on this issue.
I asked NVN, let’s call the reporters. NVN said, ‘Already I had given the news release to them.’
With a slight show of anger, I demanded NVN, ‘While we are debating the issue here, who asked you to hand the news release to the reporters?’
NVN replied, ‘Navalar [Nedunchezhiyan] was the one who wanted to give it.’
Looking at Navalar, I asked, ‘What’s this Navalar?’
Navalar said, ‘Yes, I’m the one who did it. I anticipated that unexpectedly you’ll turn softer on this.’ When others heard it, majority accepted it with applause. Navalar shouted, ‘We cannot forgive anyone who ignores the discipline of Kazhagam’. His face had turned red.
Once the majority of Central committee and secretary Navalar had made a unanimous decision, I had no option to disobey their wish.
Then, Navalar drafted a show cause letter to MGR, indicating temporary suspension of duties from treasurer of the party and common membership, and requesting MGR’s explanation for the charges within 15 days.
The central committee’s resolution on expelling MGR from the party was voted at the general committee. Among the 310 general committee members, 277 attended the meeting, and they unanimously voted for expulsion. On October 15, 1972, at Chennai beach meeting, there was a big meeting presided by Navalar. More than 100,000 were in the audience, and Navalar announced the expulsion decision to the gathering.”
A periodic cartoon by Mathan that appeared in the Ananda Vikatan (Oct.22, 1972) issue showed Anna’s mausoleum in which his ghost figure pacifying his two ‘younger brothers’, with raised hand – ‘Even in expressing difference of opinion, there should be DIGNITY’. From the left side of the arc, MGR holding a plaque ‘showing accounts, is your DUTY’. From the right side of the arc, Karunanidhi holding a plaque, ‘There is no DISCIPLINE in what you ask.’ The cartoonist did play with the tag words Anna had promoted, kadamai (Duty), kanniam (Dignity) and kaddupaadu (Discipline).
Karunanidhi: Nenjukku Neethi [Justice for the Heart] autobiography – vol. 2, Thirumagal Nilayam, Chennai, 1987.
Kirupakaran: Naan Aanaiyittaal (a compendium of articles and speeches of MGR), Vikatan Prasuram, Chennai, 2013, pp. 188-191.
Ramaswamy Sastry K. A chronicle of the DMK split. Economic and Political Weekly, Mar 30, 1974; 9(13): 529-531.