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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Of Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi

I remember seeing Jayalalitha in my Colony in Chennai somewhere in 1986 or 1987.
She was the "Proganda Secretary" of the AIADMK then, and MGR was the Chief Minister.
The post was entirely one created by MGR for her: there was no post of Propaganda Secretary before her, and none existed after her.
No-one, either in the AIADMK or outside quite knew what were the duties of such a post: I guess it would be safe to say that these onerous duties were entirely speculative in nature.
Jayalalitha would have have been in her early forties then, or maybe 40.
She had the beginnings of corpulence in her figure then, and she looked like a fairly fat, fair woman, with big eyes.
The party workers set up a dais at the end of the street where I lived, and it was a very hot summer day.
I do not remember now whether some kind of municipal or byelections were on then, but I remember that Jayalalitha came at around 3 pm in the afternoon, and gave her address.
She was dressed in a dazzling white sari with the AIADMK's party colours at the border, or pallu. The speech was very sedate, and delivered in a very slow, uninspiring way, as if by some person who was learning to speak publicly. The poor in the area, some two hundred of them listened to her, without much enthusiasm, and after half an hour, she was gone. The pandal was taken down within an hour of her departure, and that was that.
I also remember seeing Karunanidhi addressing an election meeting in T. Nagar, but this was when Jayalalitha was in power. It was late one night, and I was walking by the T. Nagar bus-stand, when I saw that a pandal had been set up in one of the bylanes. Karunanidhi was speaking, and I stopped by, to listen.
He was speaking of Jayalalitha's "sadism". Though the rest of what he said was in pure Tamil, he used the English word "sadism" to refer to the pleasure Jayalalitha derived from harassing him, his family and DMK party workers. He went on, slowly, but gripping the audience attention, as he built up his case: Jayalalitha's sadism, his party's tolerance and dedication to the Dravidian cause, his affection for MGR (who had passed away) and his hope that the Tamilian people would return to their senses. It was very different: here was a practised speaker, who knew how to sway people by his oratory.
Years later, as AIR's News Correspondent, when Karunanidhi was dragged out of bed and locked up in jail by Jayalalitha, I came to Chenni to report on the drama for radio. The DMK workers were furious that Jayalalitha had the guts to get their leader physically manhandled by the police, and in the protests, they were obscene and ribald about Jayalalitha. Gone was the pretence that they were gentlemen. In the slogans they raised, they referred to Karunanidhi's great virility ( as evidenced by his bigamous marriages, his various children with the various wives ) and what Kalaignar would do to her, and how Jayalalitha needed a good dose of just that from him.
On the whole, I felt pity for the Dravidian movement, to have splintered and be led by such a poor quality of leaders, and issues which were so personalised and trivial....

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