Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda on Thursday led an array of leaders from across the po litical spectrum in paying homage to former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi who he said ”provided stability at the Central level for 20 years by ushering in a coalition era”.
Deve Gowda was among the top national leaders, including former BJP president Nitin Gadkari , regional leaders and Chief Ministers who paid rich tribute to Karunanidhi at a memorial meeting arranged by DMK president M K Stalin in Chennai.
Among prominent leaders who shared the dais were JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress Chief Minister of Puducherry V Narayanaswamy , Trinamool MP Derek O’ Brian representing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Telugu Desam leaders Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Y S Choudhuri representing Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister.
Also on the dais were former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, CPM and the CPI national secretaries Sitarama Yechuri and S Sudharaka Reddy, as well All India Union Muslim leader Khader Moideen.
“With the passing of Karunanidhi, a glorious chapter in regional politics has come to an end”, Deve Gowda said.
He also recalled that during a period of instability in the late 1980s, Karunanidhi ushered in an era of coalition at the Centre. He said Karunanidhi played a crucial role in making him Prime Minister. Karunanidhi also supported the Government of his successor I K Gujral. After the fall of the UF Government, Karunanidhi supported the NDA Government of Vajpayee for five years, Gowda noted.
He said Karunanidhi had passed away at a time when regional parties were under threat. Deve Gowda said Stalin, who had taken over as DMK president ‘at this critical juncture” should carry forward his legacy.
Nitin Gadkari recalled Karunanidhi’s association with A B Vajpayee when the DMK was part of the NDA Government. Even prior to that, Vajpayee attended a meeting called by Karunanidhi in Madurai in support of Sri Lankan Tamils in 1986. Gadkari, after his brief speech, left the venue to catch the flight back to New Delhi.
Echoing Deve Gowda’s views, CPI secretary Sudhakar Reddy said the best tribute to Karunanidhi was to fight for constitutionalism, democracy, federalism and State autonomy which were dear to him and which were under challenge now.
Sitaram Yechuri said:”Instead of inclusion, we see exclusion. We see segregation of Dalits and women”. Noting that Gadkari had left, Yechuri said” I wished he had stayed on” so that he could have engaged him in the current situation in the country. Noting growing intolerance, Yechuri cited the murders of rationalists like Gauri Lakhesh and arrests of intellectuals and civil rights for speaking up for Dalits of Bhima Koregaon.
He also pointed to “private armies for cow vigilantism and which decide what we should eat and what we should wear”. He also said the Indian history was being rewritten as Hindu history and peddling mythology. He said: What we see today is an undeclared emergency which is worse than the declared emergency of Indira Gandhi which Karunanidhi resisted.
Farooq Abdullah recalled his father Sheikh Abdullah’s abiding faith in amity among Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and other religion groups and said the present BJP regime was dividing the nation on religious lines. He welcomed Mamata Banerjee’s initiative for a federal front to dislodge the BJP Government and said “Let’s unite and conquer”.