Karunanidhi: At home with the Fourth Estate

R Balaji | Updated on August 08, 2018

A study in contrast These file photographs show Karunanidhi (left) and J Jayalalithaa with the media   -  THE HINDU

Unlike Jayalalithaa, whose visceral hatred for scribes was well-known, Karunanidhi was only too happy to engage with the media

Journalists cannot help but draw a comparison between leaders of Tamil Nadu’s leading Dravidian parties, the AIADMK and the DMK, which have shared power between themselves for the last 30 years.

If J Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK late general secretary, was known to keep the media at a distance, DMK President M Karunanidhi, once a journalist himself, was known to grab every opportunity to interact with the media.

The rare interactions that Jayalalithaa had with the Fourth Estate tended to be formal and short, while Karunanidhi’s chats were lively and peppered with his characteristic repartees and quips.

Jayalalithaa had little patience for journalists. It is usual for television channels to jostle for space, and invariably this would be a noisy affair. It was no different at Jayalalithaa’s first press conference after she came to power in 2011. When it took journalists some time to settle down, Jayalalithaa, who waited a few seconds, said in a soft tone: “Adangunga thambigalla (pipe down brothers)”. And, they did. Everyone in that room would have heard a pin drop, if it had dared to do.

Karunanidhi would simply ignore the babble in the days prior to the advent of the television media, and simply start talking. This would make the media persons settle down fast. He could always be depended on for that quick byte whenever any political issue cropped up.


Apart from the regular press meets, the journalists would simply wait at his Gopalapuram residence or at the party headquarters, Anna Arivalayam, and he would spare a few minutes to respond to questions.

Sharp wit

On one such occasion, a delegation of Congress leaders had met him at his residence and left without talking to the reporters. The DMK-Congress alliance was on the rocks then, ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The leaders only said they would first report to the Congress high-command.

But Karunanidhi came out to meet the press and his first question to the reporters was: “What did the Delhi-people say?” When told that they had not spoken, he quipped with a smile, “So I am the scapegoat now.”

On another occasion, when asked if he would go to meet Vaiko, the leader of the MDMK, for an alliance, “Why go?” he quipped.

Published on August 07, 2018

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