Former chief minister and DMK leader M. Karunanidhi who is in the winter of a long political career, might be surprised to know that US diplomats in mid-70s had considered him to be “the most charismatic and complete politician in India” even amid the hostile environment created by his opposing Mrs Indira Gandhi’s Emergency.
In a US diplomatic cable of September 20, 1976 from its Chennai Mission, which has now been released by Wikileaks, an American diplomat had analysed Mr Karunanidhi’s tough politics in the backdrop of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi dismissing his government for alleged corruption and thereafter touring Tamil Nadu to tell the people that he had not only been corrupt but also a secessionist.
“For a man supposed to be disgraced and humiliated, a man who has faced every instrument that a determined government has been able to throw against him and his party short of incarceration, he tours the cities and rural areas undaunted by the forces arrayed against him”, said the US diplomat, adding, “It may not be an exaggeration to say that Karunanidhi is probably the most complete and charismatic populist politician in India today.”
The diplomat goes on to state that Mr Karunanidhi could move his audience to tears when he spoke in public “as he did on August 20, 1976 at Coimbatore” and that “when he speaks or writes, the people listen”.
The US analyst might have eaten his words if some magical crystal ball premiered a trailer of the thrilling politics that followed—the Sarkaria Commission found substance in the corruption charges and the DMK chief found the going terribly tough against the more popular AIADMK, founded by MGR and later led by Ms Jayalalithaa, the Iron Butterfly of Indian politics.