Political satire in India and Tamil Nadu

Political Humour, Satire and Analysis

Dr. Chief Minister!

Inia Pandian

TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 1998 (ID. 1998-05-02)
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AIADMK - All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam)


I have a modest proposal to the government and people of Tamil Nadu. Next time a new Chief Minister is elected, let the governor hand over a honorary doctorate degree to him/her during the swear-in ceremony. This will save the taxpayers some money. After all, every Tamil Nadu Chief minister since Karunanidhi has received an honorary doctorate degree from a Tamil Nadu university! Why wait for a few months and have a separate ceremony and the associated expenses when you may as well hand over the new chief minister an honorary doctorate at the swear-in ceremony itself?

It all started with Karunanidhi. He became chief minister in 1969 following the untimely death of C. N. Annadurai. DMK's top hierarchy was loaded with leaders holding Master of Arts (M.A.) degrees. The list included C. N. Annadurai, Nedunchezhian, Anbalagan, Nanjil Manoharan, and so on. But Karunanidhi had very little formal education. He dropped out of school to participate in one of the earliest anti-Hindi agitation some 50 years ago. So he does not even have a high school certificate. This is in no way a reflection on his intelligence. He is a very intelligent man with many books and movie screen plays to his credit. In any case, he did not even have a high school certificate while many of his colleagues held Master's degrees. It would seem that some of his friends in the party thought that it would be nice if a university give him an honorary doctorate degree. Senate of the University of Madras was more than willing to accommodate their wishes; after all the university depends on the Tamil Nadu government for the bulk of its budget. To our knowledge, Karunanidhi is the first Tamil Nadu Chief Minister to receive an honorary doctorate from a Tamil Nadu university.

After Karunanidhi's first stint as chief minister, M. G. Ramachandran of AIADMK became the chief minister. He did not have a high school certificate either. He dropped out of school because of poverty and joined an acting company that toured Tamil Nadu with their dramas. His family was so poor that his mother, unable to buy rice for dinner, would often give him and his elder brother some peanuts for dinner. He and his brother M. G. Sarangapani toured with the acting company for many years. Later, as the movie industry picked up steam, Sarangapani became a well-known character actor while Ramachandran became one of the most popular matinee idols Tamil Nadu had seen.

Any way, M. G. Ramachandran did not have much formal education either. When he became chief minister, his supporters saw to it that a Tamil Nadu university gave him an honorary doctorate degree as well. Unlike the case of Karunanidhi, it was not a quiet affair of receiving the degree at the convocation. The Tamil film industry, which was proud of one of its very own ascending to the helms of power, made it a gala occasion with processions and celebrations.

The next one to become Tamil Nadu Chief Minister was Jayalaltha Jayaram. She did complete high school but did not go to college because of a very lucrative movie offer to star in the Tamil film "Vennira Adai". (Her mother was a movie actress too.) It was no surprise that Jayalalitha was given an honorary doctorate by a Tamil Nadu university. One known for extravagantly gala celebrations, the occasion of Jayalalithaa receiving the honorary degree was marked by celebrations eclipsing the M. G. Ramachandran celebrations on similar occasion.

In summary, it has now become an established tradition in Tamil Nadu that every chief minister should receive an honorary doctorate. So my proposal that may save some money for the Tamil Nadu treasury is that the governor hand over an honorary doctorate degree to every new chief minister on the occasion of the swear-in ceremony.

F----    1998-a1d


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