The historic and ornamental Anna Arch at Anna Nagar recently became another political embarrassment for DMK supremo M Karunanidhi after its demolition was stopped by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The DMK had ordered the arch —dedicated to Dravidian patriarch and Tamil Nadu’s first chief minister from a Dravidian party C N Annadurai—to be demolished because of traffic decongestion when he was the chief minister.
Since the 1980s, the gargantuan twin Anna Arch stood as a sentinel, becoming one of the city’s beloved landmarks. On January 1, 1986, the then Tamil Nadu chief Minister M G Ramachandran had inaugurated the structure to mark Annadurai's diamond jubilee year. However, to ease traffic congestion at the junction, the previous DMK regime envisaged a twin flyover and subway project at a cost of `117 crore, which involved the removal of the arches as well as the statue of Annadurai situated between them.
But when the demolition squad landed with hi-tech equipment to bring down the arch last week, it refused to give way, prompting Jayalalithaa to issue ‘stop’ orders and urge the authorities to realign the flyover in a way that the arch could remain intact.
Karunanidhi, however, took this as an opportunity to take a swipe at Jaya and said, in his question-answer column in the party organ Murasoli, that the decision to demolish the arch could not have been taken without the chief minister’s nod and tried to blame her for the additional costs incurred by the revision in plan.
Hitting back at Karunanidhi, in whose time the plan for the flyover project was drawn, Jayalalithaa wondered how come he does not know how a government functioned, pointing out that all such decisions need not be brought to the knowledge of the chief minister. She made it clear that her government just went ahead with the project plan by the previous government and that she came to know about the Anna Arch being on the chopping block only from the newspapers.
She said that Karunanidhi’s statement was akin to the Satan quoting the scriptures and that he was cheating the people on the issue. She urged Karuananidhi, a five time chief minister, to clarify if he knew the procedures followed in a government while executing a project.
Karunanidhi did not reply. Perhaps because he stood exposed not only on trying to blame the chief minister unfairly but also because it was his government that drew the plan to remove the arch.