DMK supremo Muthuvel Karunanidhi, one of the senior most politician and a pillar of Tamil Nadu politics, passed away on August 7 at Kauvery Hospital in Chennai. He was 94. He has always been a crucial part of the Dravidian movement. Fondly referred as ‘Kalaignar’, Karunanidhi served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for five terms between 1969 and 2011. He is survived by his wives Dayalu Ammal and Rajathi Ammal, sons MK Stalin, MK Alagiri, MK Tamilarasu and MK Muithu and daughters Kanimozhi and MK Selvi. Apart from the pulls and pressures of accommodating his kins and partymen in the Union cabinet, he would often face the pull to contend with two wives.
Despite being from a conservative state, Karunanidhi married thrice. Well, the two wives trend is not new in Tamil Nadu and is not restricted to the DMK alone. There are instances when the politicians having more than one companion were voted back to the power in the state. Karunanidhi’s first wife Padmavathi passed away in 1944, leaving behind a son MK Muthu. Four years after her death, he married Dayalu Ammal with whom he had three sons – MK Alagiri, MK Stalin and MK Tamilarasu. In the 1960s, he fell in love with Rajathi Ammal during an election campaign and married her as per a tradition started by the DMK was known as the ‘Swayam Maryada Kalyamam’ meaning ‘Marriage of Self-Respect’. According to the tradition, the marriage is carried by seeking the blessings of elders in the party, ditching the presence of any priest or any formalities of court marriages. According to close sources, he used to spend the morning with one wife and the evening with the other. He referred to Dayalu Ammal as ‘Manaivi’ (wife) and Rajathi Ammal as ‘Thunaivi’ (companion).
When the conservative Tamil Nadu apparently had no problem with the arrangement, his rivals often criticised him. AIADMK Chief Jayalalitha would often highlight the DNK chief’s inefficiency to handle issues due to family pressures.
My daughter’s mother
Long before Rajathi Ammal and Karunanidhi’s relationship was made public, Rajathi Ammal gave birth to a baby girl. When asked for the name of the father she revealed the name ‘M Karunanidhi’. Since Karunanidhi was already married to Dayalu Ammal, Congress leaders pounced on this information. In 1968, during the state assembly, the Congress leader asked Karunanidhi about his relationship. He replied, “En magal Kanimozhyin thaayaar”, meaning ‘my daughter Kanimozhi’s mother’.