S.D. Somasundaram had a roller-coaster ride in AIADMK

T. Ramakrishnan
 S.D. Somasundaram had a roller-coaster ride in AIADMK

Edappadi K. Palaniswami releasing a book on former Minister S. D. Somasundaram at a function in Chennai.S.R. RAGHUNATHAN

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Saturday, 1st April 2023
Page No. 8
Chennai Print Edition

AIADMK founder M.G. Ramachandran had his share of critics during his lifetime. S.D. Somasundaram (1923-2001), whose birth centenary was celebrated in Chennai on Friday, was different from others as no other leader had opposed MGR as stoutly as he did.

Capturing this aspect, biographer R. Kannan in his work, MGR: A Life, stated that “no one had mounted a challenge before to MGR’s authority as SDS had and no one had accused him of corruption so openly.” But Somasundaram, also called SDS, went a step further. He floated a party — Namadhu Kazhagam — and fielded candidates in 150 Assembly constituencies and 15 Lok Sabha constituencies in 1984. The party’s performance was disastrous. “The most humiliating was that SDS himself lost deposit in his home constituency [of Pattukottai, from where he was elected in 1980 on the AIADMK ticket],” according to a report published by The Hindu on November 17, 1986, after he returned to the AIADMK.

First DMK MP to join

An engineering graduate of Annamalai University, SDS, who was born on February 25, 1923, at Sendangadu in Pattukottai taluk of Thanjavur district, was drawn to politics in his student days — initially identifying himself with the Dravidar Kazhagam and later with the DMK. He was the general secretary of the students’ wing of the DMK when Annadurai was the party chief. In the 1967 Lok Sabha election, SDS shot to fame by defeating the then State Industries Minister, R. Venkataraman, in Thanjavur. He was elected to the House on two more occasions. A few weeks after MGR founded the AIADMK in October 1972, SDS was the first DMK MP to join him. In May 1978, he became a Minister in the first AIADMK Ministry and held the portfolios of Revenue and Commercial Taxes for six years. In 1984, he fell out with the then Chief Minister over a number of matters, including the kind of importance attached in the party to Jayalalithaa, then an MP.

Recalling the relationship between MGR and SDS, H.V. Hande, who served as the Health Minister (1980-86) in the MGR Cabinet, said, “Like any political people, they [MGR and SDS] fell apart and came together again. Political contradictions do exist.” C. Ponnaiyan, another colleague of SDS, who held the portfolios of Transport, Law and Education during 1977-1987, asserted that the two leaders respected each other’s values. “Just as SDS liked MGR’s humane approach, the latter was appreciative of the former for integrity, honesty and probity in public life,” Mr. Ponnaiyan pointed out.

SDS was with the faction led by Jayalaithaa after the death of MGR. In 1991, he was again elected to the Assembly, this time from Thanjavur.

He again became Revenue Minister and, as a political leader, he toed the line of Jayalalithaa. Five years later, when the party suffered a major electoral setback, he resigned from the organisation, after Jayalalithaa rebuked him. SDS later aligned himself with rebels briefly. He again ran a party, Puratchi Thalaivar Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which merged itself with the AIADMK when he died in Chennai on December 6, 2001 following a heart attack.

At an event organised by the SDS family in Chennai, speakers, led by AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K. Palaniswami, commended SDS for his services to society.

Mr. Palaniswami, who virtually unveiled a statue of SDS and launched a Tamil journal, said he felt privileged to attend the event as this was the first function for him to take part after becoming the general secretary.

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