A few days ago, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin changed the profile picture on his Twitter handle to a black and white photo of his late father and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi descending a flight of steps after unfurling the national flag at Fort St. George.
The change in photo does not come without a purpose. As the nation celebrates the 76th Independence Day on Monday, it would be interesting to recall it was Karunanidhi, a fierce votary of State autonomy, who was instrumental in Chief Ministers getting the right to hoist the national flag on Independence Day in 1974.
In his voluminous autobiographical work, Nenjukku Needhi, Karunanidhi wrote briefly: “Every year, on August 15, it was a practice that the Governor will hoist the national flag at the State Secretariat. It was due to my repeated efforts in writing letters to Delhi (Union government) and repeatedly raising the issue in person as to why democratically elected Chief Ministers should not be given this right, it was decided that Governors will unfurl the national flag on Republic Day alone and Chief Ministers will hoist the national flag on Independence Day”.
A report, ‘CMs to unfurl tricolour’, in The Hindu archives of July 31, 1974, said, “The Government of India has accepted the suggestion of the Tamil Nadu Government [headed by Karunanidhi] that Chief Ministers should be permitted to unfurl the national flag on August 15 in the State capitals”. The report added: “He (Karunanidhi) said this was in response to a complaint he made at a function in Madras in February that while the President unfurled the national flag in Delhi on the Republic Day and the Prime Minister on the Independence Day, the Chief Ministers did not enjoy even this privilege....”
DMK headquarters secretary (media) K.S. Radhakrishnan recalled that Karunanidhi had raised with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi three issues — State autonomy, a separate flag for Tamil Nadu and the right for Chief Ministers to hoist the national flag. “Even Collectors were hoisting the national flag but Chief Ministers did not have the right, he had pointed out,” said Mr. Radhakrishnan. He said, previously K. Hanumanthaiah, Congress leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister had raised this demand, while being a member of the Constituent Assembly.