October 29, 2020
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Succession wars are hotting up in the Karunanidhi clan...Rajathiammal, the second wife of DMK chief M Karunanidhi, they say, wants big things for her daughter, M.K. Kanimozhi, now a Rajya Sabha MP...

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Chennai Corner

Kanimozhi's Political Baptism
Rajathiammal, the second wife of DMK chief M Karunanidhi, they say, wants big things for her daughter, M.K. Kanimozhi, now a Rajya Sabha MP. With the succession wars hotting up in the Karunanidhi clan, Rajathiammal does not want her 40- year-old daughter left behind. Her mother's ambition that Kanimozhi be inducted into the union cabinet has so far remained unfulfilled. Which also explains why unlike the low-profile Dayaluammal, the mother of the feuding siblings M.K. Azhagiri and M.K. Stalin, Rajathiammal is very visible these days. So is Kanimozhi but only at places like the Chennai Sanghamam (which she pulled off with great aplomb two years in a row), a book release function, gender sensitization events, a parliamentary delegation and other such -- which give her the tag of being a political "lightweight".

All that is about to change this week-end when Kanimozhi gets her baptism in the rough and tumble of politics when she addresses the DMK women's wing conference at Cuddalore. Granted that there has been no build up of the kind seen when her half-brother Stalin addressed the youth conference at Tirunelveli last December. But Stalin was to emerge as the heir apparent -- that's why everyone in the DMK went overboard because Kalaignar had hinted that he might be ready to sit in a rocking chair on his porch, metaphorically speaking of course. But as we all know that did not happen, and on his 85th birthday, the patriarch saw his two sons at odds, almost publicly. But that's another story. Kanimozhi, a poet like her father, has looked fetching in ethnic wear so far. What she should demonstrate this week-end is whether she has the stomach for the seamy side of politics, a hint of which is already visible in the ugly spat between her brothers.

Will A Star Be Born?
Why Cuddalore? one might ask. The Dravidian parties like to project that they are rationalist. But scratch the surface and a more superstitious lot will be difficult to find. So if Cuddalore made a political star out of Jayalalithaa, chances are that Kanimozhi might take the same trajectory in politics -- that is the thinking for picking Cuddalore.

In 1982, a wet behind the ears Jayalalitha, a Rajya Sabha MP just like Kanimozhi, was launched by M G Ramachandran. She was just 34 and the propaganda secretary of the AIADMK. Why Cuddalore, then? In her case it was not so much superstition (although now Amma is as, if not more, superstitious than her bete noire Karunanidhi) as practicality that dictated Cuddalore's choice. Because at the time Chandralekha (who later even had acid flung at her, disfiguring her face leading her to accuse Jayalalitha of being behind the attack) was the collector of the district and MGR felt she was the best officer who could do right by Amma. Besides, M. Natarajan (yes, the very same Natarajan who is the husband of Sasikala, now described as Jayalalitha's "companion") was the district PRO (public relations officer). The two marshalled all their skills and a star was born. Today Jayalalitha is the supreme leader of the AIADMK and has people at her feet. Incidentally, she was disdainful of Kanimozhi's coming out last year calling her a "mushroom that sprouted overnight."

While Stalin has been invited to speak at this week-end do, it's going to be a women's show with Kanimozhi at the helm. If she takes off politically, then her father is going to have a real problem on his hands. They say you should be careful what you wish for!

All In The Family
After tasting blood when he turfed out Kalanithi (Sun TV chief) and brother Dayanithi Maran (former union minister) when they had come to greet his father M Karunanidhi on his 85th birthday last week, Azhagiri has taken on the Marans again. Unlike brother Stalin, who keeps wife Durga and his children (son Udayanithi has just turned producer) out of politics Azhagiri apparently believes the dictum (amended of course) that a family that is in politics together stays together. Thus it was that son, Dayanidhi, was by his father's side at his birthday press conference in January and his daughter Kayalvizhi, a budding poet, has been in the news too. Incidentally, it was Azhagiri's wife Kanthi who did the ribbon cutting when Royal Cable Vision was launched in Madurai this week, signaling a turf war with the Marans. Already the effect is being felt and Sun TV soap opera couch potatoes are not amused that their daily soap fix has been withdrawn because RCV has blacked out Sun TV. Only those who got on the DTH platform promoted by the Marans are unaffected -- but then the majority of the middle and low income groups have stuck to cable. It is clear that Azhagiri, who was the architect of the downsizing of the Marans politically, wants to cut into their business too. And since he has the might of the government (the government released the picture of the ribbon cutting), the Marans must be a worried lot. The fact that Sun TV is still king despite the high profile launch of Kalaignar TV must be small comfort.

A Political Nobody?
When it came to films, Karthik, in his time, had carved a niche for himself. And had many fans. In the male-dominated Tamil film industry, there was place for Rajnikanth, Kamal Hassan, Vijaykanth and Karthik. But in politics, Karthik is a loser. Just before the assembly elections, he joined the Forward Bloc and much was expected of him. But unlike Vijaykanth, who won his seat, and contested all 234 seats, Karthik apparently put on too much attitude with the result that he was thrown out of the Forward Bloc after which there was a protracted media war on who said what to whom and did what. Now he has launched the Agila India Naadaalum Makkal Katchi and hopes the thevars will stick by him. His party flag has the image of Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar. He was sanctimonious at the press conference to launch his party: "Many politicians (referring to Vijaykanth) make plenty of promises but it is not easy being the CM. We always study whether it is practical, and stay away from the race for CM, unless people judge and find us worthy." Well, the Forward Bloc did not think him worthy, wonder what the people will think.

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