Tribute

‘First enemy’ and then friend: Ramadoss

Print edition : August 31, 2018

S. Ramadoss with Karunanidhi, in 2011. Photo: M. Vedhan

Love and disagreement marked my friendship with Kalaignar. When he regained power after 13 years in 1989, he had to solve the burning issue of reservation. Despite my fight for almost 10 years, I did not get the social justice I wished. I warned the State government that the fight would be intensified from March if the demand for reservation was not fulfilled by February 1989.

In February, Kalaignar spoke to me through the then Local Body Minister Veerapandi S. Arumugam. Then the meeting took place at his Oliver Road residence. A few weeks prior to it, at a public meeting, I had called Kalaignar my first enemy because he had failed in delivering social justice. After the end of the meeting with him, he recalled my words and said: “You called me your first enemy, but I am your friend.” To which I replied, “[Be] not only my friend…, do good for Vanniyars and make the entire Vanniyar community your friend.” He enjoyed it.

I told him to include Vanniyars and 10 other castes that had been clubbed under the Backward Class category as a separate group. He replied in a light-hearted vein, “You are refusing to include our Isai Vellalar society in your reservation group.” The friendship that began then continued until his last breath.

We organised a conference on social justice at Villupuram in 1996. We invited him for it and honoured him with a yellow shawl. He felt happy and kept it on until the end. He never hesitated to implement any issue relating to social justice. When I told him that a socially conscious officer like Kasi Viswanathan should be appointed the head of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission, he obliged.

When a few leaders in Delhi attempted to dilute the 27 per cent reservation for Backward Class students in higher education institutions, DMK leaders who attended the meeting remained passive. It irked me. I fought alone for it in the meeting.

I called Kalaignar using Dayanidhi Maran’s phone to express my anger and dissatisfaction. He pacified me and spoke to the Prime Minister and other leaders seeking their support. He also told them that Ramadoss was right in his demand. The issue was solved later in the night. Then he called me over phone and asked me whether I was satisfied. I said, “Yes.” The other decision he took on my request was the cancellation of entrance examinations for admission to medical and engineering courses. He enacted a law in 2006. Similarly, I met him on December 22, 2008, along with leaders and representatives of various caste groups with the demand that prohibition be enforced in the State. He promised to do it in stages. He said that no new shops would be opened and also advanced the closure of the shops by an hour. It was also on my plea that he dropped the scheme to set up a satellite town near Chennai.

Even at times of no electoral understanding between the DMK and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), our healthy friendship continued without any politics.

Dr S. Ramadoss is the founder of the PMK.

As told to Ilangovan Rajasekaran

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