January 17, 2021
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Tamil Nadu is one state where a communal issue does not escalate. Even the BJP and the sangh parivar are more mature about issues that in most other states leads to violence...

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Chennai Corner
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Does His Cup Runneth Over?
Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had much to celebrate this week. His son got acquitted in a murder case, a film based on his story is getting ready and his grandson Arivunidhi has sung for a film. Last week his other son M K Stalin got his approval after replying to the demand for grants for industries and information technology in the assembly, although the patriarch holds the portfolio and was present in the house. With Chennai becoming an industrial hub, one step for Stalin in industry would mean a giant leap towards chief ministership. 

But of the gloat-worthy events, perhaps M K Azhagiri's acquittal must have come as the biggest relief. 'Pasumpon' T Kiruttinan, a former DMK minister, and considered close to younger brother M K Stalin, was killed on May 20, 2003 while returning from his morning walk. Azhagiri was arrested by the then Jayalalitha government and charged with criminal conspiracy in the murder. The case was transferred to the district and sessions court in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh because the prosecution was afraid of Azhagiri's clout if the case was heard in Madurai where the crime was committed. 

Azhagiri, who has no formal position in the DMK but wields considerable influence both in the party and government in the south, may now have inched closer to taking over the party from his father after being acquitted. "I told you on the very first day that he was innocent. I can only repeat it today," said Karunanidhi, as he gathered Azhagiri, Stalin, daughter Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi for a happy family picture.

Dynasty Intrigues
Ever since the Marans' exit last year from the family-- triggered by a survey which put Azhagiri at the bottom of the heap in the popularity stakes, the Sun TV family is not part of the rising sun brigade and because of their ill-advised move, certainly as far away from the patriarch as their father Murasoli Maran was close to him-- the Karunanidhi dynasty sticks together. Now with Azhagiri in the clear, there is fresh speculation about how long this togetherness will last because all the three children are ambitious. Even Kanimozhi, who replaced former union minister Dayanidhi Maran as her father's eyes and ears in Delhi apparently harbours chief ministerial ambitions and won't be above getting Azhagiri on her side to edge Stalin out. Watch this space.

Some Me Time
What is true is that none of the CM's children have got all the attributes of the father. Great orator, astute politician, good administrator, splendid poet, story teller and script writer are only some of them. Despite being 84 and not in the best of health, Karunanidhi makes time for his creative pursuits. BJP's Prime-Minister.in-waiting L K Advani might find Bollywood falling over itself to give him a special screening of films--even the "no-awards-for-me" Aamir Khan showed his much acclaimed Taare Zameen Par and had the BJP leader in tears-- but with Karunanidhi, a film is shown because he is behind the camera often as the script writer.

Last week, this energetic octogenarian took time off from the assembly to see the rushes of Uliyin Osai (the sound of the chisel), which is based on the story Sarappalam Chamundi written by him in the sixties. Karunanidhi chose to guide the script that tells the story of a romance between a sculptor and a dancer in the tenth century during the reign of King Raja Raja Chola I. The Kalaignar also sat through story discussions and had a hand in choosing the cast. Next up on the screen is Karunanidhi's story Thai Kaviyam based on Maxim Gorky's  Mother.

A Crooner In The Family
The DMK supremo, in his early days, tried to prop up his son M K Muthu as a foil to MGR. He made his son mimic MGR in every way--dress, the kind of films he acted in, style, etc--but Muthu failed while M G Ramachandran grew as an actor and used that to launch his AIADMK and his political successes are a well worn tale.

Many remember Muthu as a good singer who apparently inherited the genes of his uncle C R Jayaraman, his mother's (Karunanidhi's first wife, now deceased) brother. But Muthu faded away and apparently has sought solace in the bottle while his dad moved his focus to Stalin.  But Muthu's son, Arivunidhi, a doctor by profession, has inherited his father's talent and has just recorded a song composed by Sreekanth Deva for Perumal. Arivunidhi's devotional album released in 2005 is what made Deva pick him for the song which is actually a remix of an earlier hit "kadhal vaibogame" in Suvar Illadha Sithirangal. "Even as a new singer he has a fine sense of music and knew the nuances of playback singing," gushed Deva. Now Arivunidhi wants to sing, act and even produce a film. One hopes that his first cousin, Udayanidhi Stalin, who has produced current hit Vijay-starrer Kuruvi does not feel insecure!

Where No Means No
This is one state where a communal issue does not escalate. Even the BJP and the sangh parivar-- whose members limit themselves to filing petitions against actresses (e.g.. Shriya and Mallika Sherawat)  on the grounds of obscenity-- are more mature about issues that in most other states leads to violence. It's got to do with the people as much as Dravidian politics that has taken root. So much so that when Karunanidhi famously queried "Is Ram a civil engineer?", there was no violence. Nor was there when thousands of Muslims decided to do namaz on the road last Friday in front of the mosque inside the historic Vellore fort.

The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) said outsiders to the mosque were prohibited under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. Since the mosque was not being used for worship at the time of declaration of the fort as a national monument by the centre, the right of entry is prohibited under the Act.

Although there was unprecedented security, the disciplined Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam(TMMK) cadre, whose leader M H Jawahirullah orchestrated the protest, peacefully prayed and courted arrest. Incidentally, local Muslims were against forcible entry into the Nawab Masjid at the fort. And although Muslim leaders and clergy want the government to allow prayers inside the mosque they perceived the TMMK's move as being politically motivated and wanted no part of it. "Welfare of the people is supreme, religion comes next. If the welfare of the people is in jeopardy, there is no relevance for any religion or place of worship," says G S Iqbal, state secretary of the Dravida Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (DMMK). Bravo!

After spending 12 years in Hyderabad, and being witness to many occasions when the likes of the Owaisis took advantage and orchestrated violence in the Old City, the Vellore episode was amazing. Even the BJP did not get in the middle to take advantage. Bravo again!


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