When a politician said no to money

When a politician said no to money

When a politician said no to moneyFormer AIADMK leader’s biography unveils little known facts of the Dravidian Movement

In an era where money is ubiquitous in every sphere of electoral politics, it is difficult to believe that DMK founder C.N. Annadurai rejected a proposal to distribute money during the crucial 1962 Assembly elections even though a senior leader had collected a substantial amount from then superstar and future chief minister M.G. Ramachandran for the purpose.

“But Annadurai put his foot down saying that he would quit from the contest if money is distributed. MGR, however, refused to take back the money. Party workers then used the amount to buy a house for him [Annadurai] on Village Road in Nungambakkam,” records a new biography of S.R. Radha, 84, former minister and Leader of the Opposition, and close associate of all Dravidian leaders — Periyar, Anna (Annadurai), M. Karunanidhi, MGR and also Jayalalithaa.

Penned by R.R. Kubendran, Pakutharivu Sudar S.R. Radha, which was released on Sunday, chronicles the history of the Dravidian Movement and its electoral success from the perspective of a leader who had retired from active politics and was under no compulsion to please anyone. In a first, the book is highly critical of DMK leader M. Karunanidhi and never misses an opportunity to deride him, recording events unlikely to find mention in any other political biography.

Rift with MGR

While a slew of reasons are attributed to MGR’s removal from the DMK, the book highlights then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s move to lift prohibition as an important reason for the parting of the ways. Mr. S.R. Radha, who was closely identified with MGR on the issue, spoke against lifting the ban at a meeting, the book says. Though Mr. Karunanidhi succeeded in getting MGR’s nod for lifting the prohibition on the ground that it would help repair the State’s economy, the latter’s boycott of the public meeting held in Chennai later in the day gave the impression that he was also against the decision.

Mr. Radha, who became a follower of Periyar at the age of 16, continued to maintain good rapport with the leader even after people like Annadurai distanced themselves from him after his marriage with Maniammal. However, Mr. Radha invited him for a public meeting in Kumbakonam.

“Everyone thought that Anna would be angry with Radha. But he [Anna] was vocal in his praise of Radha and the incident was a proof that Radha had gauged him correctly,” writes V.N. Swami, journalist and former personal assistant to Periyar, in his introduction to the book.

Though Mr. Radha was an ardent follower of Periyar, his ideology did not stop him from condemning incidents of some Dravidar Kazhagam cadres snapping the sacred thread of Brahmins in Nachiyarkoil, when he spoke in the Assembly.

Rocky relationship

The book makes no secret of the uneasy relationship between Mr. Karunanidhi (and his supporters) and Mr. Radha, despite the fact that the latter was brought in to campaign for the leader in the Thanjavur Assembly constituency in 1962.

“The DMK men were shocked when Radha addressed the meeting in Sourashtra language. But Karunanidhi asked them to remain silent. In a few seconds people from the community started thronging the meeting venue and it eventually led to his victory against Congress candidate Parisutha Nadar,” the book says.

Mr. Radha held the portfolios of fisheries and housing in the first MGR cabinet. After the death of the AIADMK founder, Mr. Radha supported Jayalalithaa’s leadership of the party. In recognition, she appointed him Leader of the Opposition after she decided to boycott the Assembly following violent incidents in the House.

But the rise of Jayalalithaa’s aide V.K. Sasikala and members of her family in the AIADMK made Radha’s continuation in the party untenable. He was expelled from the party along with G. Viswanathan and Azhagu Thirunavukkarasu..

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