From Tiruvarur to Marina: The platinum jubilee friendship of Karunanidhi and Anbazhagan

In the aftermath of Anna's death, when the DMK was searching for a new leader, Anbazhagan threw his weight behind Karunanidhi, though his close associate Navalar Nedunchezian aspired for the post.

Published: 07th March 2020 05:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th March 2020 05:01 PM   |  A+A-

K Anbazhagan (right) with late DMK leader M Karunanidhi and his son and the current DMK chief MK Stalin.

K Anbazhagan (right) with late DMK leader M Karunanidhi and his son and the current DMK chief MK Stalin. (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

TIRUCHY: In a video clip that was released a few months before his death, DMK leader M Karunanidhi, sitting in a wheelchair, calls out 'Perasiriyar' with much effort. Hearing the word, his daughter Kanimozhi showed where K Anbazhagan was standing in a small crowd at his Gopalapuram residence. Then, sporting a broad smile, the two old friends shook hands. The moving clip is once again going viral after Anbazhagan breathed his last on Friday in a Chennai hospital.

When Karunanidhi died in 2018, the duration of their friendship had already crossed a platinum jubilee. Karunanidhi first met Anbazhagan in 1942 when the latter came to Tiruvarur along with former Chief Minister C N Annadurai to participate in a memorial event for Sikandar Hayat Khan organized by Muslim youth.

In fact, this was the first time Annadurai met Karunanidhi and appreciated him for his write-up in the Dravida Nadu journal.

At the time, Anbazhagan -- two years older than Karunanidhi -- was a student at Annamalai University. 

Two years later, in 1944, Karunanidhi invited Anbazhagan as a speaker for an event held by the Tamil Nadu Tamil Maanavar Mandram, a student body run by the former at Tiruvarur.

Since then, their friendship grew stronger and lasted through several ups and downs. 

In the next five years when Anna launched the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in 1949 at Robinson Park in Chennai, both of them became founding members and functionaries of the party.

The following decades saw the two friends crisscrossing Tamil Nadu addressing meetings to garner support for their newly formed party.

Both of them edited their own journals for the party and excelled in writing. While Karunanidhi edited Murasoli, Anbazhagan edited Puthu Vazhvu.

Their hard work helped the party ascend to power within just twenty years of its launch.

In the aftermath of Anna's death in 1969, when the DMK was searching for a new leader, Anbazhagan threw his weight behind Karunanidhi, despite the fact that his close associate Navalar Nedunchezian aspired for the CM post.

Within a few months of Anna's demise, Anbazhagan lost his wife Vetriselvi. It was the then chief minister Karunanidhi who unveiled the portrait of Vetriselvi and delivered a condolence speech.

Anbazhagan first became a minister in Karunanidhi's government in 1971. He became the health minister, a portfolio which was sought by MGR himself but in vain.

Although many leaders departed from the DMK to join the AIADMK, Anbazhagan remained by Karunanidhi's side.

Even during the dark days of the Emergency, Anbazhagan was there to lend his support to Karunanidhi through all his sufferings.

Anbazhagan often introduced himself in meetings in the following way: "I am a cadre of Periyar, brother of Anna and friend of Karunanidhi."

When did Karunanidhi actually became a leader to Anbazhagan? 

Well, as Anbazhagan himself put it, "Only after seeing Karunanidhi's relentless fight against the Emergency, I started addressing him as 'leader'."

In 1983, both Anbazhagan and Karunanidhi together resigned as MLAs condemning the Centre and state for failing to protect the Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka.

After Nedunchezian switched camps and went to the AIADMK, the post of DMK general secretary fell vacant. The then DMK president Karunanidhi made Anbazhagan the general secretary, a post which he held for over four decades till his death.

After Karunanidhi's death on August 7, 2018, Anbazhagan paid his respects during the burial at the Marina beach. That was the last time he saw his friend.


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