Karunanidhi turns 85, city painted black and red (Lead)

June 3rd, 2008 - 11:49 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Chennai, June 3 (IANS) The city turned into a sea of black and red - the colours of the ruling DMK - and traffic came virtually to a standstill as thousands of party activists and admirers turned up to greet Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Muthuvelar Karunanidhi on his 85th birthday Tuesday. Millions of posters hailing Karunanidhi as the saviour of the Tamil race dotted almost every wall here while the black and red party flags fluttered everywhere.

Thousands of ruling party workers arrived from all over the state in over 3,000 buses, bringing traffic to a halt.

To mark the occasion, eateries reduced the prices of their fare like idlis, dosas and coffee by 15 percent after an assurance by the Dravidian patriarch that he would look into their demand to supply food ingredients at subsidised prices.

“The AIADMK claimed to feed only school going children, but Kalaignar is feeding the whole state at subsidised prices,” said R. Duraipandi, a DMK worker making his way towards Island Grounds to hear Karunanidhi speak.

There were of course critics who pointed to the reduced size of the dishes and meals (costing Rs.20 a plate) and the amount of coffee per cup.

“Meals at roadside shops are available at Rs.15 and they serve more. Hotels will get food grains at reduced prices and dish out less food in the name of price reduction, and ultimately raise the price as well,” commented B. Thirunaavukkarasu, a three-wheeler driver whose dashboard had a picture of late chief minister M.G. Ramachandran - Karunanidhi’s bete noire.

Among those to greet Karunanidhi were Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who spoke to him on telephone.

Governor Surjit Singh Barnala, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, members of the state cabinet, several VIPs and hundreds of thousands of the ruling party faithful personally wished the chief minister.

Karunanidhi travelled between his two residences and the DMK headquarters in the city, triggering huge traffic jams in the arterial Anna Salai that lasted several hours.

The chief minister also paid floral tributes at the tombs of his party’s founder C.N. Annadurai and social reformer Periyar, besides planting saplings at his residences.

Though Karunanidhi had appealed to his followers to let him observe the occasion in a private manner as he had not been well, the DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan ignored the request and exhorted supporters to celebrate the occasion “in a grand manner”.

Some of the chief minister’s detractors, including his fierce critic and PMK founder S. Ramadoss, also greeted him. His office said there was no congratulatory call from his principal antagonist and predecessor J. Jayalalitha, leader of the rival AIADMK.

The AIADMK-led opposition, whose flag has a white streak separating the same colours of the DMK flag, termed the birthday celebrations “Chennai’s shame”.

“The DMK’s black and red flags fluttering all over Chennai are the proverbial black and red spots painted over the face of wrongdoers in Tamil society to mark their shame. Sadly, that also fits the description of Chennai today,” said a senior AIADMK leader.

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