The Drama King

Posted: April 29, 2009 in Indian Politics

Muthuvel Karunanidhi all of 85 years, is a wily old fox. He is a 5 time CM of Tamil Nadu, and a winner of every election he has fought in his political career spanning 60 years. He has achieved everything possible at the state-level in the course of his long political career.

MK was also a well known dramatist and film script-writer before he entered politics. Although I haven’t seen any of his works, I have heard from a few old timers that MK was quite a master of his trade. I have seen this one particular scene in the movie Parasakthi in which Sivaji Ganesan impressively delivers a famous dialogue penned by MK. However, my 1st experience of MK the dramatist was at the time of his arrest by JJ on corruption charges in 2001. MK with the help of Murosoli Maran and his son’s TV channel – Sun TV brilliantly stage-managed his arrest in the early hours of the day, capturing the arrest on live television. MK played the role of a suffering old man to the T. This stage-managed drama instantly earned MK, tremendous sympathy and portrayed his arch rival JJ as a vindictive and cruel lady. The public fell for MK’s drama like suckers.

This incident in 2001 happened when I was in school. I was glued to the TV the entire day as the JJ Govt declared a holiday for the schools fearing riots. It was gripping stuff as Sun TV played the arrest clips over and over in various angles. The clincher was MK himself, as he cries aloud that the police arresting him are trying to man-handle and kill him. It was my 1st experience of “reality” television. Similarly, MK has always been a step ahead of his rivals, having several tricks up this sleeve to outwit his opposition. The public invariably fell for his tricks each time. If nothing works, MK could always stage manage a big drama with the help of Sun TV and Kalaignar TV’s world-class production capabilities.

Like several times in his career, MK faced a severe challenge this elections. Madam JJ had cobbled up a strong coalition against him and he only had the limp Congress in his severely weakened team. All his old friends, including the turn coat Dr. Ramadoss had deserted him on the eve of the elections. MK’s health also started worsening, while his successors in the family did not have his authority or cunningness to run the party which has several power centers. Heir apparent Stalin was still not ready to command the troops, while Azhagiri’s writ ran only in Madurai. It is at this inopportune time, when his party was in disarray and allies mired in their own petty in-fighting that the Srilankan Tamil issue threatened to topple MK’s Lok Sabha election plans.

MK had wielded considerable power and influence in the out-going Lok Sabha. His rainbow coalition swept all 40 seats in TN and made MK one of the king-makers of the UPA Govt. However, similar plans for up-coming elections was in serious danger of being derailed by the wide spread uproar in certain circles over the TN and the UPA Govt’s in-action when Srilankan Tamils were being killed, caught in the cross-fire between the Lankan army and the LTTE. This charge was particularly damning for MK who saw himself as a protector of Tamil pride.

As the crisis in Srilanka worsened by the day, JJ spewed vitriol in her campaign trail, accusing MK of betraying the Tamil population in Srilanka. Her allies PMK, MDMK as well as fringe players like Nedumaran also did their bit to stoke the raging fire. Seeing things getting out of control, as a last throw of dice, MK played his final drama card on Monday, April 27th. The early morning fast was intended to force the Indian Govt to apply pressure on the Lankan Govt, to call a ceasefire as well as to earn public sympathy for MK.

However, things didn’t go according to plan.

The fast had to be short one due to MK’s health condition. Under severe time constraints, an under pressure Indian Govt got the Lankan Govt to issue a long and confusing statement, which it conveniently interpreted as a ceasefire, not withstanding categorical denials to the effect by the Lankan Govt. A satisfied MK called off his fast within half a day after setting up his bed by the Marina beach. However, the entire exercise was so farcical that even DMK sympathizers were hard pressed to defend his actions. The fast drama was condemned and ridiculed in equal measure in political and media circles.

I for one was extremely disappointed by the way MK’s latest dram turned out. I had really high expectations, hoping for a repeat of 2001 and for another griping saga on television. Probably age has finally caught up with the wily old fox. The scripting of this latest drama was really weak and the action came to a hasty conclusion even before the news of the drama reached enough people. However, it would be fool hardy to write the obituary of one of the most cunning politicians, India has ever produced. Even as I write this, I am sure MK is huddled in discussions with his large extended family, plotting his come back.

Come on MK!! Can you script another drama to remember you by? For old time’s sake …….


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