Karunanidhi was known for his ready wit and repartee.
Returning to power in 1989 after a gap of 13 years, he listed the undue excise concessions to liquor baron Ramasamy Udayar by his predecessor M G Ramachandran, running to a few crores and the loss of revenue to the exchequer.
Making a pun on the Tamil word Andavan( God or previous ruler), he said: Where this money has gone, Andavan only knows”.
Karunanidhi remained a self-confessed atheist even after the DMK under C N Annadurai changed its ideology to “One God, One Community” as espoused by reformer Narayana Guru. when he decided to enter the electoral arena.
Years later, Puttaparthi Sain Baba donated Rs 100 crore to repair a channel in Andhra Pradesh to enable Krishna water flow to Chennai under the Telugu Ganga project. Karunanidhi got up a function to felicitate the Baba. Before the function, the Baba visited Karunanidhi’s residence where his first wife Dhayalu Ammal received his blessings.
At the function, explaining how an atheist like him can share the dais with a godman, Karunanidhi said:” The question is not whether I believe in God or not, but whether I am worthy of His trust”.
Karunanidhi like Annadurai used the powerful cinema to propagate the DMK’s ideologies. One such film for which Karunanidhi wrote the script was Parasakthi in which Sivaji Ganesan debuted. In that he explained his stand thus:” I am not against temples. I only wanted them not to be dens for thieves”.
In furtherance of this objective, during his reign, he enacted a law to bar temples from alienating their property to lessees who were sitting on thousands of acres of land and thereby depriving them of funds. The law was upheld by the Supreme Court.
He also enacted a law to allow non-Brahmins trained in the agama rules to become temple priests. It took years to come into effect thanks to resistance at the ground level to the idea and the first trained priest took up the post only a few days ago when Karunanidhi was battling for life in hospital.
Though he was five-time Chief Minister, Karunanidhi stayed in his street corner house in upper middle class locality of Gopalapuram. The neighbours were left undisturbed and the security was minimal.
Right out side his house was a Vaishanava temple and every time Karunanidhi came out of his house, he could not help having a darshan of the deity.
Karunanidhi also had a vicious tongue which often landed him in trouble. One such was his comment that “Hindu” means thief. Following an outcry, he said he was only quoting from a Persian dictionary.