The demise of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa became ‘official’ at 2330 hours December 5 2016, courtesy – a terse press statement issued by Apollo Hospitals.
Denizens of Chennai had suspected that the CM would soon kick the bucket ever since Apollo Hospitals had put out the news that she had suffered a heart attack a day before.
On the fateful day, passing through Alwarpet intersection alongside Cauvery Hospital [it is very close to Poes Gardens, Jaya’s residence and that of Kanimozhi, DMK Rajya Sabha MP] where former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi was undergoing treatment, one could clearly see that the contrast was noticeably stark.
The vicinity of Apollo Hospital where Jaya was undergoing treatment, one had seen earlier, was a beehive of activity.
Outside Cauvery Hospital, except for a few lounging cops nearby, chattering on mobile phones and sipping tea there was hardly any activity worth writing home about. A Central Reserve Police Force ambulance stood close-by for whatever reason.
Around 3-o-clock in the evening, senior journalist Cho S Ramaswamy – also unwell and an in-patient at Apollo – was being shifted to the ICCU – as he too had become critical, or so the grapevine said.
One wondered as to how another person would be shifted into the ICCU when it was out of bounds for everyone as Jayalalithaa was in it. Whenever, she occupied that room, it was out of bounds for the rest of humanity.
A little bit of thinking, led to the raising of eyebrows.
“Has something bad happened to Jaya?”
Before long, news channels broke the story that Jaya was no more.
It was retracted a few minutes later by a press statement from Apollo.
The little grey cells in the brain yelled: “It is a ruse by the hospital and the state’s police machinery to disperse the crowds, fearing harm to the hospital.
“Soon, close to midnight, the announcement that she is no more would come,” one muttered under the breath.
Will there be a political turmoil in Tamil Nadu as Jaya has no political heirs?
OPS has no base – political or whatever.
The majority of AIADMK MLAs owe allegiance to Jaya’s personal aide Sasikala Natarajan. Top police sources said that roughly 90 of the 137 AIADMK legislators were “owned” by Sasikala.
Mischievous minds would remember that when MGR had died and his body had lain in state at the Rajaji Memorial Hall [where people are paying the final homage to Jaya in huge numbers at the time of writing] Jayalalithaa had positioned herself virtually next to the fez cap of the thespian’s mortal remains. Her political opponents had physically assaulted her. That gave her political career the fillip it needed. In the elections that followed, she was Leader of Opposition. During the next elections, in 1991, Jaya was in Fort St George as CM!
Will Sasikala succeed in TN politics by trying to emulate that performance, with all her important relatives in tow? Only time will tell.
The die has been cast. The “elected” Chief Minister O Panneerselvam was reduced to a stage prop by Sasikala and her relatives during the funeral. Natarajan was persona non grata at Jaya’s residence when the state’s iron lady was alive. But, upon her passing, the bespectacled man rubbed shoulders with the VVIPs during the funeral. He was one of the last few persons to place a wreath on Jaya’s coffin. Wags interpreted the deed as the hammering of nails on the career of Tamil Nadu’s late CM – who had rendered Natarajan’s life a misery during her autumn months.
Sasikala’s relatives are bound to dismiss this chronology of events as “mere coincidences”.
But, a day later, it is now apparent that a section of the ruling AIADMK is on the warpath against Sasikala – protesting against a domineering style of functioning as an extra constitutional authority.
What one can say at this point in time is that Jaya had a power of presence. She would instantly be noticed in any gathering, no matter how big the crowd. Sasikala, virtually in the perception of anyone and everyone whose opinion matters in Tamil Nadu’s political circles, is far away from that league. There is worse.
Soon after Jaya’s admission to the hospital 75 days ago, rumours had been attributed to one Tamilachchi from France saying Jaya was dead. It had reportedly led to 42 legislators establishing contact with Karunanidhi and offered ‘support’ in the likelihood of ‘extreme circumstances.’
It seemed like an attractive proposition for the DMK to topple her, but, that plan would have backfired badly if Jaya came back healthy.
Sure enough, acting Governor Vidyasagar Rao declared Jaya to be healthy.
But, the nagging doubt resurfaced when OPS was given all the portfolios being handled by Jaya. It was a clear indication that all wasn’t well. Now, finally, the die has been cast.
At this point in time, it appears that the status quo ante would continue on paper – as arguably, Karunanidhi can get virtually anything and everything done through Sasikala and she would, in turn, get OPS to do her bidding. The moment OPS tries to assert himself, he would be sent packing. The earlier eternal number 2 – Nedunchezhiyan – was a good orator – at least once upon a time. I am yet to read about any noteworthy speech made by OPS.
That probably explains why Sasikala didn’t have to get ‘elected’ as the leader of the AIADMK legislature party. The whole thing adds up. Anyway, there is little to choose between the ruling AIADMK and the DMK in terms of policy differences, methods of governance and so on. AIADMK belonged to Jaya and the DMK belongs to Karunanidhi and if possible pieces of it would belong to his family after his passing. On the wrong side of 90, he isn’t getting any younger.
The rhetorical questions:
Why should Karunanidhi complicate matters within the DMK when his heir apparent Stalin is snapping at his heels? As it is, there are huge ego clashes between his elder son Alagiri and Stalin. To make matters worse, there is a section in Chennai’s intelligentsia that feels that poetess Kanimozhi alone would be a worthy successor to her litterateur father, Kalaignar.
Wouldn’t it suit Karunanidhi to jockey himself into a position of strength and force the AIADMK to do things that would destroy the legacy of MGR and Jaya put together – so that he could have another crack at the CM’s post later?
To save whatever is left for his family, would Karunanidhi opt to pitch his tent within the NDA fold and begin praising PM Narendra Modi as he had done during the tenure of AB Vajpayee? In Tamil Nadu, anything is possible.
The brouhaha witnessed in the immediate vicinity of Apollo Hospital as Jaya battled for life, was almost the same as was the case when her mentor MGR did in 1984.
Memoirs of ‘other’ days
As the south India correspondent of a Calcutta paper, I had covered the hospitalisation, triumphant return and finally the demise of the first All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam CM – Marudur Gopalamenon Ramachandran – or MGR.
October 1984 was a tumultuous month for Tamil Nadu. MGR got off his light-green car with the number 4777 under the portico of Apollo Hospitals, walked to the reception panting for breath and got admitted.
The relentless vigil began at the hospital which later announced the thespian CM had a blood clot in the brain that had induced a paralytic stroke.
Even as he had battled for life, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited him on October 16, 1984.
“MGR is like a brother to me and a dear friend. The Government will do everything to help him recover. I hope to see him after he becomes Chief Minister again after the elections [scheduled a few months away] as he is a great fighter. He always wins,” Indira had told journalists.
Air India had kept a 19-year-old Boeing 707 named Lhotse in readiness at Chennai’s Meenambakkam air terminal’s tarmac. A 6-member team of cabin attendants, 2 pilots and an engineer began a long wait for doctors attending on MGR to declare him fit fly from Madras – all the way to New York to the Brooklyn Hospital.
Then the delays began.
Dr Eli Friedman examined MGR and declared him unfit to travel on October 19 after the CM developed a tennis ball sized clot in the brain.
A Japanese neurosurgeon Dr Kanno flew all the way from Japan. His trip had its anxious moments, with flights delayed, missed, money shortage and so on. Finally a Boeing 747 was chartered at the cost of roughly Rs.10 lakhs to ferry Dr Kanno and his aide Dr Nakamura.
Preparations were underway and MGR began showing signs of improvement, albeit, in his coma-state.
On October 31, Indira Gandhi was assassinated and it necessitated Lhotse returning to Bombay to fly the then President Zail Singh to the National Capital Region. He had to swear in Indira’s son Rajiv Gandhi, who was in Calcutta at the time of his mother’s murder.
Rajiv kept the promise given by his mother.
On November 4 1984, MGR finally was flown by the same Lhotse – this time a flying hospital – all the way to New York.
There were other anxious moments.
Of the required oxygen cylinders, one had a bit of moisture. A replacement was found after a frantic search.
Finally when the flight took off at 2246 hours from Madras [the city was renamed Chennai much later], its first halt was Bombay. Someone realised that 707s were not allowed to land in New York due to their noise. Rajiv’s aides made the request through Washington and clearance was obtained. A snag in the plane’s radar, a broken rod of the tractor meant to pull the aircraft broke … all contributed to the mystique around MGR almost like the frenzied moments leading to a thriller movie’s pulsating climax.
In the plane, the medical team kept checking the vitals of the CM. A blood analysis was done in London and finally the bird crossed the Atlantic and landed in the airport of the city known as Big Apple.
Dr Sreepada Rao supervised the wheeling in of the CM into Brooklyn’s Downstate Medical Centre.
A miracle happened in 20 days.
Despite the tennis ball sized clot, MGR shook off his paralytic stroke, sat up, began taking lessons to regain his original gait. A special video was shot to reassure the electorate in Tamil Nadu and shown in cinemas. For the second time in his life, MGR won an election from a hospital bed. The first instance was in 1967.
Even as MGR was fighting for life in New York, the bitter infighting within the AIADMK came to the fore.
One person sidelined in the party was J Jayalalithaa.
At that point in time, she was the only paid subscriber of the paper I then worked for – Amrita Bazar Patrika.
She had invited me to do an interview at her residence in Poes Gardens. My searching queries irked her and she yelled. I had yelled back.
Some of the questions and her replies:
“Why are you being sidelined in your party?”
Answer: “Everyone else in the party after MGR and me are political pygmies. And some of them are conniving with Karunanidhi – hatching a plot to control the sure-to-win MGR government.”
“Could you name your enemies within the AIADMK?”
Answer: “There is that skunk flunkey of my leader [RM] Veerappan. There are others, like Chief Secretary Chokkalingam and BP Rangasamy in a very high police post – who are in cahoots with Karunanidhi.”
“Since you are from the film industry, why don’t you get MGR’s celluloid loyalists around you to counter this?”
Answer: “Most of them are snakes in the grass like Bhagyaraj. They call themselves as heirs of MGR’s film legacy and will ditch him at the first opportunity to meet selfish ends.”
“How would you describe your relationship with MGR?”
Answer: He is everything to me. I owe him my career in films and in politics.
“Isn’t there a personal angle?”
Answer: “This is supposed to be a decent press interview. Impertinent questions are not allowed!”
Jaya began shouting and I simply got up and had walked out of Veda Nilayam.
DMK President Karunanidhi knew that the double sympathy wave would electorally drown him. The remark by Jayalalithaa sent up a red light in my brain. Some cross-checking resulted in my discovering the sick, sinister conspiracy being hatched by Karunanidhi to remote-control MGR’s regime.
Karunanidhi networked many within the AIADMK like Veerappan, Nedunchezhiyan [the eternal number two in the cabinet], Chokkalingam and DGP BP Rangasamy.
Mohandas was transferred.
Chokkalingam was ready to stab MGR in the back as were Veerappan and others.
But those weapons were blunted. 
Despite MGR being confined to his hospital bed in faraway US, the alliance led by the AIADMK comprising the Congress and Gandhi Kamaraj Congress of Kumari Ananthan [father of current TN BJP chief Tamizhisai Soundararajan] won 195 out of 234 seats. The DMK had managed to bag 24 of the 176 seats it had contested. The AIADMK won 132 seats of the 155 it fought.
The contrast in the lives of MGR and Jayalalithaa after their stay in Apollo is starkly different. The thespian male returned alive, like a phoenix after a long detour – from Madras to New York and then back again. His female successor Jayalalithaa, records say, was imprisoned in Apollo. She was never allowed to meet anyone holding any constitutional authority. Her body finally emerged in a coffin.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President M Karunanidhi seems to be virtually remote-controlling the movements of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and working out a scorched earth policy to destroy the most visible part of southern India – Tamil Nadu.
Here is how:
- Jayalalithaa’s aide and confidante Sasikala Natarajan who had been ignominiously expelled from the Chief Minister’s household for allegedly administering mind-controlling drugs – is back again. Sasikala’s husband Natarajan had been known for his closeness to Karunanidhi. Police sources say that it was Sasikala who had leaked the so-called resignation letter reportedly penned by Jayalalithaa during her first reign in the 90’s through those who mattered in the opposition [read Karunanidhi].
- Former Chennai city police commissioner T Rajendran, who hushed up the murder of Sadiq Batcha, the aide of 2G Spectrum allocation scandal infamy – Andimuthu Raja under reported instructions of Karunanidhi and who was transferred to the prisoner department immediately after the announcement of the 2011 assembly election results, came back to head the Tamil Nadu police’s intelligence wing within 48 hours! The Sadiq Batcha murder effectively plugged several leaks that could have sunk Raja’s leaky canoe.
Rajendran is close to Sasikala and headed the investigation wing of the State Human Rights Commission.
Jayalalithaa ensured that he never got promoted to DGP rank till he retired.
Sasikala’s relatives and clansmen controlled the Tamil Nadu Human Rights Commission that virtually is denied justice to a huge number of persons who have been wronged by the police [especially in the form of cruel actions against innocent protesters in Koodankulam who wanted the nuke power plant made by the former Soviets stopped from being commissioned].
- Rajendran had falsely claimed to have ‘solved’ the triple murder of Dr S Saravanan, the former boss of Tamil Nadu Minerals Ltd. He indirectly directed the investigations of the Granite export scandal. The Granite loot scandal is larger than the available figures put out by the Comptroller and Auditor General in the 2G Spectrum allocation stink – at Rs.24 lakh crores!
- Jayalalithaa’s television channel Jaya TV was under the control of one Rabi Bernard. It is still reportedly controlled by Sasikala’s relatives.
The channel’s former head Income Tax honcho had quit, unable to stomach the racketeering methods of Sasikala’s kin.
Bernard was said to have been in regular touch on phone with his former flunkey Florent Pereira, who is the de facto head of – hold your breath – Kalaignar TV!
Pereira had been in Vijay TV earlier where Bernard had served.
Pereira, according to police sources also regularly meets relatives of Sasikala.
- One peeved police officer explained it all:
- What is there for the de facto head of Jaya TV discussing matters with the de facto head of Kalaignar TV and what does the de facto head of Kalaignar TV want to discuss with relatives of Sasikala if not controlling every move of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa?
- Did Rabi Bernard not cut his teeth in the television business in Sun TV, whose GRP ratings are 1400 plus, Vijay TV where he served is 400 plus and Jaya TV – which he controls now – has ratings below 50? None of the channels he worked for did well, and managed to survive only after he left. He is supposed to be the main face for the national media in New Delhi in his role as a member of parliament … something he hasn’t done at all. Now, which role will he do better – that of a Rajya Sabha MP or the boss of a channel?
- Its profitability had zoomed beyond a dozen crores if its unaudited annual report is to be believed – more than double what it had been for some 6 years when the retired Income Tax officer had headed it, but had given an honest journalist KP Sunil a free hand.
- For nearly 6 years, Jaya TV had been an also ran in most aspects.
- Its ratings had improved after the telecast of Cho Ramaswamy’s serial on Hinduism – Engey Brahmanan.
- Since Bernard taking over, Jayalalithaa’s personal auditor a gentleman whose name starts with the letter ‘D’ was forced to scale down the profits in the balance sheet ‘during a stringent audit!’
- It is being done, apparently to besmirch the reputation of all those who began rooting out systematic corruption in the channel in recent times.
- The idea, the top police officer went on to say is simple but diabolic. Jaya’s only link with the people is her television channel. Making it defunct or redundant would serve one massive purpose – cutting her off from her supporters. And then Karunanidhi can hope for the best … And to do that, the plan of action is simple. He knows very well that he cannot solve the differences between his sons Stalin and Alagiri. His daughter Kanimozhi – the most acceptable face of the party is peeved with her father because she was pitchforked into the 2G Spectrum scandal through her shares in Kalaignar TV – in which – she never had any hand. Her closeness to Raja resulted in her canvassing for his ministerial position at the behest of her father … who wanted to settle scores with Sun Network that had led to the sacking of Dayanidhi Maran. After his mysterious re-entry, the critical planting of news items that damaged Kalaignar TV began including an alleged punch up with its earlier de facto boss Sarat Kumar Reddy. To help her father, the media savvy Kanimozhi interceded with Shahid Balwa – the Mumbai real estate shyster – but the money was collected from him by her half-brother Stalin who met Balwa and others in what is now Park Sheraton. For nothing at all, except her closeness to Raja, Kanimozhi became the fall gal who rotted in prison and has now adopted a low profile. When one realises that she is the brightest of the Karunanidhi offspring … one can only breathe heavily at the irony. In more ways than one, the situation of Kanimozhi is the same as that of Jayalalithaa. Both women have been let down by one too many men, back-stabbed by those in whom they placed their complete faith and finally are being controlled by a dubious personality … who answers to the name of Muthuvelar Karunanidhi!
- So how does Karunanidhi benefit from it all?
The past history says it all.
In 1984, when the then Chief Minister Marudur Gopalamenon Ramachandran had suffered a paralytic stroke, Karunanidhi had made a diabolic move.
Karunanidhi purchased the loyalty of most of MGR’s men in the cabinet by promising juicy returns. Such beneficiaries included ministers like C. Ponnaiyan [now out of political reckoning], KA Krishnaswamy [since deceased] and Muthuswamy [who joined the DMK to be made the member of the party’s high power executive committee in 2010].
- MGR’s cabinet mainstays like Nedunchezhiyan and Veerappan were roped into the act along with police officials like BP Rangaswamy, IK Govind and Dorai to name just three and the then Chief Secretary Chokkalingam.
- The juicy returns began with the so-called ‘telex’ orders from the United States of America where MGR was undergoing treatment.
- The telex orders financially benefited all the cabinet ministers who went on signing files in the name of telex orders from US of A.
- The plan was to create a car with a glass dome to make MGR a figurehead and parade him before the public and run the government by proxy through his cabinet being controlled from Gopalapuram.
To effect this MGR’s closest confidante – top cop K Mohandas was side-lined into an innocuous position.
Sadly for Karunanidhi, the plan backfired as MGR learnt of the perfidy, got Mohandas back as the first thing since he returned from the US of A in early 1985.
Unfortunately, Jayalalithaa lacks such an advisor today – be it in politics or be it in officialdom.
Her detractors keep blaming journalist Cho Ramaswamy and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi who never had been her confidantes or serious advisors ever.
The indecisive Ramanujam as the Director General of Police holding the post of intelligence and an ineffective George as Commissioner whose standing with the press as well as those of his men is poor, Jayalalithaa is in an ivory prison of security, operated by none other than Karunanidhi and his moll Sasikala who controls every official through the machinations of her husband Natarajan with some planning inputs by officers like Rajendran.
Karunanidhi is profiting from being in office without being in office.
He also hopes to help some outsider to hammer out a rainbow alliance to defeat Jaya in the future hoping that the political instability at the centre will help him forge other alliances with machinations of Karti, washed actors Vijaykant, Sarat Kumar and Kartik, roping in flotsam and jetsam like Thirumavalavan and/or Dr Krishnaswamy.
In everything else fails, Karunanidhi hopes to bank on revived secessionist and anti-national activity for which the DMK government was dismissed once in Tamil Nadu [in 1976, the dismissal was effected by Indira Gandhi on the basis of corruption and after which in 1980, the same DMK aligned with the dismissing authority – Indira Gandhi under the slogan welcome back Nehru’s daughter to give us a steady regime] and whose manifestations had brought down the United Front ministry at the centre down because his nephew and conscience keeper Murasoli Maran refused to step down from the Union Cabinet.
To achieve this, Karunanidhi is breathing life into the near defunct bawling bawdy politic called Tamil Eelam Supporters’ Organisation under whose auspices, Stalin delivered a sheaf of papers containing letters from Tamil Nadu to someone slightly more important than the concierge at the United Nations some months ago – a deed that was celebrated as a great victory in Tamil Nadu.
According to DMK insiders, to escape from the 2G denouement, Karunanidhi has planned to get all the blame shifted to his long stand suffering wife Dayalu Ammaal and then get a medical certificate to get her declared mentally unstable.
The only state to declare secessionist tendencies in India since independence is Tamil Nadu and the party that proclaimed it – is the DMK!
[The above excerpts are from a blog penned on May 1 2013. Link: – http://tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=738]
I had openly ticked off Chokkalingam in an open press conference in the secretariat in 1984.
The power brokers at the secretariat are manufacturing so-called telex orders to line the pockets of cabinet ministers here. I understand you created one to favour your son-in-law Devadas, son of Salem based Congress leader Ramaswamy Udayar with an industrial unit worth several crores with the signature of Finance Minister VR Nedunchezhiyan under the legend – for Chief Minister by utilising a false telex order from MGR. To my knowledge, MGR had turned down the whole thing not once but thrice. Did you falsify that correspondence Mr Chokkalingam?
I will not allow this question! This press conference is only meant for explaining developmental activities of the government!
Mr Chokkalingam, a press conference does not mean you will hear your own voice. Journalists will ask questions.
That is impertinence!
Yeah? So what would you call your forgery of a telex order that never was, Mr Chokkalingam? By your rather pathetic response, I already have answered my question in the affirmative. Your act has completely exposed your perfidy!
Someone in the secretariat press room remarked:
This fellow comes and spoils our weekly tea and tiffin courtesy the CS acting for some shady political group which is nursing some imaginary grouse using a completely fictitious charge against a totally honourable chief secretary.
“Small correction, my friend… you should say dishonourable cheap secretary,” I had snapped then.
My exposure of Chokkalingam in the presser had uncovered the perfidy of Karunanidhi and others to use the elected AIADMK government surreptitiously through Veerappan, Chokkalingam, Nedunchezhiyan and others by making MGR a dummy because of his illness – something the wily, legendary police boss of Tamil Nadu Mohandas had uncovered.
In early February 1985, the jokers in uniform who had collaborated with Karunanidhi were almost pissing ice and shitting bricks when MGR got down from the aircraft ladder unaided, accepted the greetings of then DIG Mr AX Alexander present at the airport, another upright officer and a personal friend to this day.
Eyewitnesses told me that an officer with the rank of IG even saluted Mr Alexander.
Mr Alexander laughed the whole thing away.
“You know how it is, Hari. We lived for the job and never for its trappings. Such things do happen in one’s line of work.”
And it was Mr Alexander who initially explained to the CM after the oath taking why and how Mr Mohandas had been shunted out of the post of Head of Intelligence.
MGR’s first order was to reinstate Mr Mohandas.
When MGR had learnt my rather small role in the whole drama from Mr Mohandas, the CM invited me home to Ramavaram Gardens, gave me a breakfast and a coffee I will never forget for their supreme good taste.
Excerpts from the blog explaining a ‘breakfast’ meeting with MGR:
I met MGR him at his residence upon his return from abroad – at his invitation.
The CM was then recovering from a near paralytic stroke – triggered by severe diabetes, coupled with total renal failure.
I told him a few things bluntly.
“Shivaji cannot perform if there is no camera in front of him and a script to back him. You are the exact opposite. You get a bit finicky and panicky when in front of a camera – and become extra careful to ensure that others do not overshadow you,” I said in chaste Malayalam.
MGR threw back his head and laughed.
During a press conference in his T’ Nagar office in the early 80’s, while asking a question, I had referred to the current CM by her name – Jayalalithaa.
MGR corrected me and said, “You should refer to her respectfully and only as the Propaganda Secretary.”
“Mr. MGR! Jayalalithaa is your party’s Propaganda Secretary. I am referring to her respectfully by name. That is it. Answer the question please,” I had snapped.
After the presser, quite a few friends who worked for papers that owed allegiance to the then main opposition [and currently on the verge of disappearing] – the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam [DMK] hugged me and said, “You are the only one amongst us who can proudly twirl your moustache!”
In the 70’s, Mu Ka Muthu, Karunanidhi’s eldest son, had been projected as the main competitor of MGR and the actor had gone nowhere, very, very fast.
Before long, Muthu totally vanished from showbiz horizons, was rumoured to have turned into a washed up lush. The story goes that he one day walked into the Ramavaram Gardens’ residence of MGR fully drunk and began abusing his father in colourful expletives. Without any warning, MGR is supposed to have caught him by his balls, squeezed and said with a voice like that of the Devil Himself, “Are you aware that your father is my friend for well over 40 years, you ungrateful wretch? Think of what all he did to prop your career and what you did in return to besmirch his name. If you think you can use me to settle your imaginary scores with your father, think again. If you have come to me for money, I will send you a tidy sum every month. But, one wrong word about your father, I will have your guts for garters. Is that understood?”
Muthu had reportedly squirmed helplessly throughout the angry expressions from MGR out of sheer pain and had complied. MGR had given him a huge suit case believed to have contained a few lakhs of rupees. The money, it is said, used to reach Muthu unerringly on the first of every month. And when Karunanidhi heard about the good deed, he had apparently, profusely thanked the actor.
The recounting was done by none other than the smartest cop to walk the Indian earth – the late DGP K Mohandas and personally to me.
If he had wanted, MGR could have destroyed Karunanidhi’s reputation using, misusing and abusing Muthu. That the actor chose not to, if Mohandas is to be believed [I do believe the tale] it only shows that MGR was a good man, who never hit below the belt.
My mentor in Tamil journalism – Mr. Cho S Ramaswamy is the source of an anecdote that concerns the political career of Jayalalithaa.
Before appointing Jayalalithaa as the propaganda secretary, Jayalalithaa had called Mr. Cho on the phone and revealed the details of the olive branch extended by MGR.
“You seem to have taken the decision already at the behest of MGR. So why ask me? Surely, MGR must be somewhere near you. Give the phone to him and I will tell him my opinion,” Mr. Cho had said.
Jayalalithaa is said to have snapped the connection.
Soon MGR had called and confirmed the tidings.
Mr. Cho had approved and said, “Jayalalithaa has an axe to grind against Karunanidhi and her attacking him verbally would do wonders for the AIADMK.” And that piece of advice is holding good to this day. Mr. Cho has never written about this anywhere.
Upon MGR’s orders, the police had broken my leg. Ill-advised about my origins and political outlook, MGR had believed that I was a left-wing extremist whose political allegiances were with Karunanidhi.
MGR had offered me a vast sum of money … something I had turned down.
“If I accept this, I would be like the rest of the parasites who pretend to be journalists and sail with the unsavory currents. You had been given a wrong picture about me. Now, I can say that not only that I knew MGR, MGR too knew me and considers me a friend. That friendship is worth much more than the money you are offering and I am turning the offer of money down and will uphold this offer of friendship to the extent of respecting the fact that you indeed are a good human being. Let us be clear about one thing. My friendship will not deter me from criticising your political actions when I hit the street again after this meeting,” I had said.
Despite having suffered a paralytic stroke, despite having been weakened by the kidney transplant and all, MGR had hugged me tightly that day with surprising strength, tousled my hair and muttered something intelligible. I had guessed that he was calling me a person not in tune with the changing times.
I asked him whether I had guessed correctly. He had nodded in agreement.
“Whatever little stuff I did to restore democracy which in turn helped you in a very small way – is like the deed of the fabled squirrel that helped Lord Ram in the building of the causeway to Lanka. Incidentally, your name is Ramachandran too. What would a squirrel want other than a pat on the back from someone so successful as you?”
MGR was moved.
So was I.
With surprising alacrity and speed, like an indulgent father, MGR affectionately wiped my tears.