Chennai: Among the 13 Assembly polls that M Karunanidhi contested and won in his chequered political career, it was the 1980 election in Anna Nagar against local favourite, Dr H V Hande, that tested Kalaignar’
Karunanidhi scraped through with a margin of 699 votes. But, Hande could hold his head high for giving one of the heavyweights of Indian politics the toughest fight of his career.
Even as the nation mourns the Dravidian icon’s death, News Today spoke to the 90-year- old physician and former Health Minister for a sneak-peek into the friendship of two political foes.
Shrewd & Sharp
Talking about the election, Hande says that it was Karunanidhi’s political acumen that won him the constituency.
“Anna Nagar was the place where I practised medicine for many years and helped a lot of people. Naturally, I should have won. But, Karunanidhi was a
shrewd manipulator and knew the pulse of the people.”
He explains how he lost the elections, “I was already a Member of the Legislative Council at the time. Speaking at a DMK meeting here, Karunanidhi took a different approach. During his speech, he told the public that I was already a member of the Legislative Council and that I do not need to stand for
Assembly elections. He asked the people to vote for him and they will have two candidates from the same constituency in both Houses.”
“The next day, when I went for a function, people asked me why I should represent two Houses. This was the moment I lost. Karunanidhi was a person who would lobby for every quarter.”
Kalaignar canvassed for me
Hande’s first association with Karunanidhi was in 1964. It was only during the Park Town constituency election in 1967, when he represented Swatantra Party, that they became closely acquainted, he says “Karunanidhi canvassed for me briefl y in the election. I won the seat defeating a strong Congress candidate, T N Ananda Nayaki. The moment Kamaraj was informed of
Congress’ defeat in Park Town, he remarked, Then we have lost the entire State,”
Master of repartees
After C N Annadurai’s death, Karunanidhi became the Chief Minister and the DMK and Swatantra Party parted ways. “Though the Congress was the main opposition, I took up the dominating role and became the de-facto Opposition
leader in the Assembly. Despite my friendly relationship with Karunanidhi outside, I vehemently stood up and attacked the DMK government verbally on its policy decisions on the Assembly floor.”
“Observing all this, Karunanidhi joked, ‘Ukkarndhaal Hande. Ezhundhaal andai,” says Hande laughing.
Recalling another incident of Karunanidhi’s quick wit, Hande says, “I was asked to deliver a speech when Karunanidhi received an honorary doctorate. A DMK partyman, S Ganesan, said Karunanidhi is an Edhayum thaangum
idhayam padaithavar, edhayum thaakum naavum padaithavar.
When I spoke, I talked about how only Karunanidhi could have filled the vacuum in the DMK after Anna’s demise.” Karunanidhi, who was listening to all this, got up on stage and said, ’Hande-vin naa-vai sattamandrathil kanden. idhayathai ingu kangiren’ .
“It was a real treat to listen to his repartees. Those days there was no itterness
in political fights like now,” adds Hande.
A TRUE FRIEND
Hande credits Karunanidhi for his reputation in the Assembly as a strong Opposition leader.
“He gave me more time to speak. I raised no-confidence motions and objections against MK. But it was his greatness that he never prevented me from talking whatever I wanted to. Not a word of my speech was expunged. I became a hero of the Assembly and came to be known for my strong criticism
of the government all because of Karunanidhi.”
Hande adds, “Though I have opposed him on several occasions, he did not keep any grouse in his mind. I could meet him whenever I wanted to. His secretary Shanmuganathan even knew my practice hours and
slotted time convenient to me. His accessibility to everyone even when
he was in power defined him.”