BENGALURU: Although seen as a hawk whenever tempers arose in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over sharing of Cauvery waters, former Tamil Nadu chief minister and a towering leader of the Dravidian movement, M Karunanidhi, has had a big influence on many leaders of Karnataka, from championing the cause of backward classes to ensuring that a Kannadiga — HD Deve Gowda — becomes Prime Minister.
Gowda, whose friendship with Karunanidhi stood strong over the last 50 years, termed him as his elder brother and recalled his role in making him Prime Minister.
“I have lost my elder brother today. Karunanidhi played a big role in proposing my name and getting me elected as the 11th Prime Minister of the country in 1996,” he said.
Kannadigas cannot forget
Karunanidhi’s help and cooperation in getting the state’s icon and thespian Dr Rajkumar freed from the captivity of forest brigand Veerappan, recalled former minister P G R Sindhia, who served as minister in the cabinets of Gowda, J H Patel, Dharam Singh and H D Kumaraswamy.
When he was Chief Minister, Karunanidhi went out of his way to open back-channel negotiations with Veerappan to secure the release of Dr Rajkumar.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Sindhia said, “Karunanidhi, as the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, pulled out all stops in extending cooperation with the S M Krishna government to get Rajkumar freed. He had to go out of his way as Chief Minister in putting into action some of the moves that were tried to free Rajkumar,” Sindhia said.
The family members of Rajkumar, including Parathamma, Shivarajkumar and Raghavendra have showered praise on Karunanidhi for his help in getting Rajkumar freed.
One of Karunanidhi’s daughters is based at Jayanagar in Bengaluru. The family has left for Chennai, but security has been beefed up at the house as a precautionary measure. Karunanidhi’s family also has a farm Harohalli in Kanakapura taluk.
While many view Karunanidhi as a hawk who tried to play on Tamilans’ regional sentiments, Sindhia termed it as a misconception. “Karunanidhi always wanted to resolve the Cauvery dispute amicably through negotiation. Though he was committed to protecting his state’s interests, he never incited the people to violence,” Sindhia said.
The commitment of Karunanidhi for the cause of backward and dalit communities has influenced many leaders in other states too, including Karnataka.
Former Karnataka chief minister D Devaraj Urs, who is hailed as a champion of backward classes, was an admirer of Karunanidhi, Sindhia said.