Tamil Nadu

DMK general secretary Anbazhagan no more

Relatives and DMK Cadres paying tribute to DMK general secretary K Anbazhagan at his house in Kilpauk on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj

K. Anbazhagan, DMK’s general secretary for 43 years, four-time Minister and a close friend of former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, died in the wee hours of March 7. He was 97 and is survived by two daughters and a son born through his first wife. He had served as MLA for nine terms and as Lok Sabha MP for one term.

DMK president M.K. Stalin has announced mourning for a week when party flags will fly half-mast.

Actor Rajinikanth arrives to pay his last respects to DMK’s general secretary K. Anbazhagan, who passed in the wee hours of March 7, at his residence in Chennai on Saturday.

Actor Rajinikanth arrives to pay his last respects to DMK’s general secretary K. Anbazhagan, who passed in the wee hours of March 7, at his residence in Chennai on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: S.R. Raghunathan


Mr. Anbazhagan, one of the stalwarts of the Dravidian movement, was admitted to the Apollo Hospitals in Chennai on February 24 following age- related health complications. His condition remained critical ever since in view of his old age.

An academic-turned-politician, Mr. Anbazhagan first became the general secretary of the DMK in May 1977 after then incumbent V.R. Neduchezhian had parted ways to initially form his own party before eventually merging it with the AIADMK founded by M.G. Ramachandran. He continued in the position till his death. He was also the first secretary of the DMK’s trade union movement.

Perasiriyar (Professor), as he was known in Tamil Nadu, had joined as a lecturer of Tamil in the Pachaiyappa’s College and served for 13 years, between 1944 and 1957.

Born Ramaiah in Kattur near Mayiladuthurai, he changed his name as Mr. Anbazhagan and studied Tamil in Annamalai University in Chidambaram. His father M. Kalyanasundaram, was a Congressman and even ran a khadi store in Mayiladuthurai but quit the Congress along with Periyar E.V. Ramasamy, founder of the Dravidar Kazhagam. He shifted his base to Chidambaram to facilitate good education for Anbazhagan and his brothers.

“I had read Kudiyarasu run by Periyar and Navasakthi by Thiru.Vi.Ka even when I was 10 years old,” Mr. Anbazhagan had once recalled.

He first met Karunanidhi in 1942 while accompanying C.N. Annadurai, who later founded the DMK, to Tiruvarur. 

“Anna wanted to see Kalaignar (Karunanidhi), who had penned the short story Ilamaipali for the Dravida Nadu magazine. He also advised him to concentrate on his studies,” Mr. Anbazhagan had reminicised in an interview.

In Annamalai University, he was the favourite student of Tamil scholar Ka.Su. Pillai and his classmate Nedunchezhian. As the secretary of the Literary Association he first invited Annadurai to speak in the university and he spoke on Athoram (Beside the river). Impressed with the speech Anna was asked to deliver a speech on, The world of old and new.

Close associate of Periyar

Though a close associate of Periyar, who stayed at his parent’s house in Chidambaram and Annadurai and despite being actively involved in the Dravidar Kazhagam during his student days, his job as a college teacher prevented him from openly identifying himself with the DMK. He resigned his job to contest in the 1957 Assembly elections and was elected from the Egmore constituency.

Also read | DMK’s ‘professor’ loves the lectern

He lost the election in 1962 and was elected to the Legislative Council. In 1967 he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Tiruchengode constituency. Though after Anna’s death he was among those who opposed the leadership of Karunanidhi, subsequently he patched up and both of them remained close till their last days. 

“I accepted his leadership not because he has become the Chief Minister. There is no one in the party who has the energy to match his capacity. Tamil Nadu needs a leader who has talent and commitment,” he later said. Mr. Anbazhagan became the Health Minister in the DMK cabinet (designated number 3) in March 1971 and held the post till the dismissal of the M. Karunanidhi government in January 1976.

He was elected from the Purasawalkam Assembly constituency in 1971, 1977 and 1980. He won from the Anna Nagar constituency in 1989 and became the Education Minister in the DMK Cabinet, a portfolio he retained during 1996-2001. He won in the Harbour Assembly constituency in 1996, 2001 and 2006. He held the portfolio of Finance during  2006-2011. He lost the Assembly elections in 2011 and opted out from electoral politics in 2016 citing old age.

During the last term of the M.G. Ramachandran government, in December 1986, the Assembly adopted a motion expelling Mr. Anbazhagan and nine of his colleagues from the House for having burnt excerpts of the Constitution of India as part of the party's opposition the Centre’s move to “impose” Hindi in the Press Information Bureau offices.

Also read | Anbazhagan moves Supreme Court in Jayalalithaa case

Endorsed Stalin

Mr. Anbazhagan had publicly endorsed the elevation of Karunanidhi’s son M.K. Stalin in the party organisation at various stages.

Well-read and delved deep into Tamil literature, he rejected religion, even though he admired Vadalur Vallalar Ramalinga Adigal. “If I need a religion, I have no hesitation in embracing Vallalar,” he once said.

“Unlike the leaders of the Dravidian Movement, who have reservations about Bharathiar, Anbazhagan admired the poet and appreciated his scholarship,” said K. Thirunavukkarasu, the historian of the Dravidian Movement.

Mr. Anbazhagan declared himself as follows: “First I am human being; secondly, I am Anbazhagan; thirdly a rationalist, fourthly the younger brother of Anna, fifthly the friend of Kalaignar. This will continue forever and only death can destroy the order.”

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 4:55:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/dmk-general-secretary-anbazhagan-no-more/article31004456.ece

Next Story