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Profiles of Indian Political Leaders
C.N. Annadurai
(1909-1969)


Before M.G.Ramachandran and M.Karunanidhi, there was Conjeevaram Natarajan Annadurai, the foremost political leader of the state of Madras (now called Tamil Nadu).

Annadurai - fondly referred to Anna or elder brother - was a politician, playright, journalist and scriptwriter for Tamil movies.

Born into a lower middle class family of weavers in Kanchipuram, Annadurai was the son of Natarajan and his wife Bangaru Ammal.

Annadurai studied at the Pachaiyappa's High School in Madras (now Chennai) and later got his BA and MA from the Pachaiyappa's College.

A good debater in both Tamil and English, Annadurai became a follower of the rationalist and Dravida Kazhagam leader E.V.Ramasamy Naicker a.k.a. Periyar (elder).

Disillusioned with the Dravida Kazhagam's reluctance to enter the political arena, Annadurai parted ways with Periyar and founded the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party in 1949.

In the 1957 state Legislative Assembly elections, Annadurai won from the Kancheepuram constituency defeating P.S.Srinivasan of the Congress party. Annadurai secured 51.94% of the votes versus 33.77% for the runner-up Srinivasan.

The DMK fared even better in the 1962 state Legislative Assembly elections winning 50 seats out of the 143 it contested.

But Annadurai, who contested in the 1962 state Legislative Assembly elections from the Kancheepuram constituency, lost to a Congress candidate S.V.Natesha Mudaliar. It was not a narrow defeat for Annadurai because his oponent got 54.8% of the votes.

However, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) of the Indian Parliament.

It was his secessionist speeches in Parliament that brought Annadurai to the national limelight. On May 5, 1962, Annadurai stunned his fellow parliamentarians and the country by advocating the secession of the four south Indian states including Madras, the state he hailed from.

Annadurai mooted that India should be turned into "a comity of nations instead of a medley of disgruntled units." Parliament was shocked and so was Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Annadurai had two complaints - discrimination against the southern states and imposition of the Hindi language.

An angry Nehru declared that the creation of Pakistan was "bad enough." To Nehru, any more divisions would balkanize India into "thousands of bits" and he vowed to resist such secessionist demands with all force.

Subsequently, Annadurai toned down his secessionist rhetoric and he and his DMK party focused on opposing the Hindi language.

In the 1967 state Legislative Assembly elections, the DMK defeated the Congress party handily and Annadurai became the first non-Congress Chief Minister of Madras (now known as Tamil Nadu).

Of the 174 seats the DMK contested, it won 137 and secured 40.69% of the total votes. The Congress party got 41.1% of the total votes but won just 51 of the 232 seats it contested.

Annadurai died of cancer on February 3, 1969 leaving behind a wife. His funeral was attended by a record 15 million people, a testament to the popularity of this leader.

Sources:
Election Commission of India
The New York Times, May 6, 1962
The Hindu
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