Tamil Nadu’s Bi-Polar Personality-Driven Politics Ends With Karunanidhi’s Death

Tamil Nadu’s decades-old personality-driven bi-polar politics comes to an end with Karunanidhi’s death


The death of Dravidian stalwart Muthuvel Karunanidhi has signalled the virtual end of personality-driven bi-polar politics in the state, dominated by charismatic individuals of arch-rivals DMK and AIADMK in the past five decades.

While it was Karunanidhi and MGR (MG Ramachandran) who held sway over the masses in the initial phase, it later became a contest between was the DMK veteran and MGR’s protege late J Jayalalithaa.

Incidentally, the year 2016 saw both Ms Jayalalithaa and Mr Karunanidhi recede from the political limelight as she died after 75 days of hospitalisation in December, while the DMK chief suffered illness from which he never recovered fully till his demise.

Mr Karunanidhi, known for his trademark baritone, lost his voice owing to a tracheosteomy procedure, and he subsequently faded away from active politics with his public appearances becoming rare till his death aged 94 last evening.

The illness forced Mr Karunanidhi to confine himself to his Gopalapuram residence as his son MK Stalin took charge of the day-to-day affairs of the party, assuming a new post of Working President.

Following his ascent to the Chief Minister’s chair for the first time in 1969 following the death of incumbent and DMK founder CN Annadurai, Mr Karunanidhi enjoyed unbridled success till 1972 when the charismatic MG Ramachandran decided to take on Mr Karunanidhi.

Kicked out of DMK following his differences with Mr Karunanidhi, MG Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR, founded AIADMK and in the 1977 general elections steered his party to a massive win against DMK.

Since then, the state politics was dominated by the two individuals till MGR’s death in 1987 and the trend of bi-polar politics continued for next few decades with Jayalalithaa emerging as the new rival to Karunanidhi.

Though the AIADMK split post-MGR’s death, Jayalalithaa unified the two factions to take forward his legacy.

Observers of Tamil Nadu politics are of the view that Mr Karunanidhi may have suffered reversals in electoral terms on many occasions, but was never down.

In the political spectrum dominated by Ms Jayalalithaa and Mr Karunanidhi, leaders like Vijayakant of DMDK made some noise making impressive electoral shows. However, their short-lived glory proved time and again that the bi-polar nature of Dravidian politics was intact.

The exit of Mr Karunanidhi and Ms Jayalalithaa from Tamil Nadu politics, however, seems to have created a political vaccum in the state politics.

Observers are of the view that it would be a challenge for any leader to match their charisma and political influence and hence the personality-driven politics of the state could come to an end.


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