When M Karunanidhi turns 94 , a well-stacked line-up of politicians is expected in Chennai – among those who have conveyed they will attend the large celebration for the former Chief Minister are Rahul Gandhi, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav and Sitaram Yechury. They are unlikely to encounter the subject of the gathering.
Karunanidhi’s party, the DMK, has confirmed that he is not well enough to appear in public and has asked cadre not to crowd his residence, offering up a website instead where supporters can post their wishes.
Karunanidhi’s son and political heir, MK Stalin, was the first to log on today to wishthalaivar.com is birthday greeting. The DMK’s diplomatic counsel to enthusiastic workers was that avoiding visits would be tantamount to the “best birthday gift.”
Mr Karunanidhi, who has served as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister five times, has not been seen in public for several months due to health issues that include respiratory and skin related issues. He has used a wheelchair for at least seven years. Mr Stalin, 64, is serving as Working President of the party founded by his father’s mentor C N Annadurai, in 1949.
The visiting political celebrities will be treated to a large public meeting intended at broadcasting two messages: the putative surge of the DMK at a time when Tamil Nadu’s ruling party has been weakened by dissent and corruption scandals; and the attempt by all opposition parties to collate as a united front against the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the general election that is now two years away.
Karunanidhi’s birthday provides an event to contour and test the ability of non-BJP parties to work together. Two other opportunities lie in July’s election for President of India, where the Congress is front-lining the effort to find a consensus candidate for the opposition, and a rally planned by Bihar heavyweight Lalu Yadav in Patna in August pivoted on attacking the policies of the Prime Minister.