Congress governed most states in India after independence. However, CN Annadurai, or Perarignar Anna, as his followers lovingly called him, emerged in Tamil Nadu. Anna has been the driving force behind Tamil Nadu politics ever since 1967 when the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) defeated Congress and held onto the political reigns for the state. He founded DMK in 1949 and then parted ways with Dravida Kazagam (DK), which Periyar E.V.Ramsamy Naicker pulled as a social reformist outfit. The decision to part ways with his mentor was prompted by the latter's demand to have a separate state outside the Indian Union. Moreover, Periyar, who was nearing 70 years, was interested in marrying Manniammai, who was barely 31 years old.
Renamed Madras To Tamil Nadu
This decision of letting go of his primary support at the peak of his political career made CN Annadurai stand out for his followers. People in Tamil Nadu had begun to worship Anna for his righteousness. He held the charge as the Chief Minister for the state for less than two years but brought in a plethora of changes, some of which are still in effect. First and foremost, he changed the name of the state from Madras to modern-day Tamil Nadu. Secondly, he legalized self-respect marriages and brought into force the two-language formula instead of the three-language formula running in other southern states.
Self-respect marriages or suyamariyathai marriages are radically simplified weddings that shun away the brahmin priests, holy fire and the seven rounds around the fire and mangalsutra. The implied way of marriage states that the couple would be considered married after simple ceremonies in the presence of friends and family, where garlands and rings are exchanged. To further emphasize Anna's impact on Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation filed by Advocate A Asuvathaman demanding the practice of suyamariyathai unconstitutional because it did not conform to the customs.
Voiced The Cause of State Autonomy
CN Annadurai championed the cause of Federalism and resisted any attempt to infringe upon the state's prerogatives. He emphasized the need to amend the Constitution. He said that an ideal Constitution leaves sufficient powers to the state and keeps just enough power with itself to protect the integrity and sovereignty of the country. While initially, the demand from the political heartthrob's side was for a separate country for southern India, the onset of the 1962 Indi-China War pushed him to make changes in his demands and channelize the energy towards a better autonomy for the states. While addressing a public meeting, he had said that "When the country is in danger, for us to advocate separatism would be to give way to the foreigner", reported The Print.
Torch Bearer Of Social Justice
Even though his tenure was as short as two years, Anna not only left a mark on Tamil Nadu's politics for decades to come, he also made his presence felt to the Central government. In 1965, he was the heart of anti-Hindi agitation that rocked Tamil Nadu. People viewed Anna as the torch-bearer of social justice and rationalism after he announced removing all religious images in government offices. Apart from politics, he wrote short stories, essays and scripts for theatre plays and was known far and wide for his prolific writing and excellent oratory skills.
Revered by all Tamilians as a changemaker of the state, CN Annadurai lost his battle to cancer in 1969 while still holding the position of the state's Chief Minister. His followers followed him in his last journey, and the political leader made himself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records even in death after 15 million people thronged Chennai, the state capital, to bid farewell and pay respects to their beloved Anna!