Anbazhagan, Stalin’s Man Friday and a man of many talents

A close associate of DMK chief MK Stalin, Anbazhagan was a vociferous leader who called out injustice and helped the needy

A cricket aficionado, Anbazhagan was a fan of MS Dhoni. Photo: Twitter

While giving an interview to a private channel on COVID awareness a week ago, DMK MLA J Anbazhagan wouldn’t have thought that it would be his last. In another interview with IBC Tamil, he had suggested everyone to stay at home and wear mask while going out. He had insisted on social distancing, advising those who have undergone surgery to take extra care. It is only ironical that he succumbed to the disease he was waging a war against.

Party cadres say, the 62-year-old DMK leader, who had undergone liver transplantation in 1995, was actively involved in the COVID relief measure under the party’s ‘Ondrinaivom Vaa’ (Let’s come together), and was thus perhaps unable to follow precautions himself.

The DMK leader was actively involved in the party’s COVID relief measure of ‘Ondrinaivom Vaa’

In his condolence message, party chief MK Stalin equated Anbazhagan with a martyr. “My brother’s death is equivalent to the death of a soldier who sacrificed his life for the country,” Stalin said.

Hailing from a humble background, Anbazhagan neither ran after party positions nor nurtured dreams to be at the helm of state politics. But, in the era of digital politics, he was one of the leaders from the party, who made his presence on social media.


DMK in his blood

Born in 1958, Jayaraman Anbazhagan entered the arena of politics just after finishing his matriculation. His father Jayaraman, a native of Vengamur village of Villupuram district was a staunch supporter of the DMK. Jayaraman had moved to Chennai in search of work and started a small fruit shop in Thiyagaraya Nagar. His profession became a prefix to his name and people started calling him ‘Pazhakkadai Jayaraman’.

Having a love for the leaders of the party, Jayaraman named his two sons as Karunanidhi and Anbazhagan.

Related news: DMK MLA J Anbazhagan succumbs to COVID on birthday

Jayaraman’s loyalty earned him a position in the party and he was appointed as Thiyagaraya Nagar region’s party secretary. When Murasoli Maran and Stalin were arrested under MISA Act in 1976, Jayaraman too was arrested.

During that period, the family members of the arrested were not allowed to meet them in prison. Opposing this, the then DMK supremo M Karunanidhi sat in a dharna in front of the police commissioner’s office at Egmore. That was when Anbazhagan started taking part in politics. He had sat along with Karunanidhi and protested.

A Thalapathy for Stalin

Almost 10 years later, in 1985, Anbazhagan was given the responsibility of his father. Anbazhagan converted the Thiyagaraya Nagar region into DMK’s fortress. His influence in the region was so strong that despite the DMK losing the state elections in 2011 and 2016, Anbazhagan emerged victorious from the Chepauk-Triplicane constituency both times.

In 2001, when Anbazhagan was arrested for an agitation, Karunanidhi came to his rescue by sitting in a dharna before the same commissioner’s office in Egmore, where a quarter-century before the duo had protested during Emergency.

Anbazhagan shared a close bond with DMK chief Stalin

Since, Anna Arivalayam, the headquarters of the DMK falls under Chennai West DMK party district, for which Anbazhagan is responsible, he was the go-to man for events and functions of the party. His passion for party work made him a close associate of both Karunanidhi and Stalin. While his father Jayaraman acted as a ‘thalapathy’ (commander) to Karunanidhi, Anbazhagan by default became a commander for Stalin.

Their friendship was so thick that in one of the party meetings, after Stalin was anointed the DMK chief, Anbazhagan ordered him not to wear pants anymore and instead start wearing dhoti.

He was a staunch loyalist too. When Stalin’s half-brother, MK Alagiri, a former union minister and once a power centre in the party, demanded to be made the general secretary in late 2,000, Anbazhagan was among the handful of party workers who stood by Stalin, while others including senior leaders supported Alagiri due to fear.

“Stalin has lost his right hand,” is how Lyricist Vairamuthu termed Anbazhagan’s demise.

A firebrand leader

More than anything, Anbazhagan was known not for mincing his words, even if it meant sermonising the party chief.

In 2018, during the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, Stalin has appointed separate in-charges for each Lok Sabha constituency. Criticising the move, Anbazhagan had said that there was no need to appoint separate in-charges when district secretaries are already overseeing the election activities.

“We, the district secretaries have already started working in our districts. If you need to check whether the work is going without any glitches, then appoint separate supervisors. But do that without our knowledge. Don’t consider this an advice. You (Stalin) know everything. We would like to see you as chief minister,” he had said.

Stalin chose not to reply to Anbazhagan’s criticism.

Anbazhagan was also known for addressing issues vociferously in Assembly debates. His speeches are said to have made Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Speaker Dhanapal uncomfortable many a time.

In January this year, he was suspended from taking part in the Assembly proceedings for three days, following his act of tearing the Governor’s speech and throwing it before the Speaker. Anbazhagan resorted to such move, when his speech against Municipal Administration minister SP Velumani was cut short. His accusations gave way to clamour in the House.

“Though fierce in Assembly, Anbazhagan had friends cutting across political parties,” said PMK founder Dr Ramadoss. “He often praised the social justice policies of the PMK,” he added.

A man of many trades

Not many know that the consummate politician was a cricket aficionado and a fan of MS Dhoni. He also tried his hands in Tamil cinema by producing the film Aadhi Bhagavan (2013) starring ‘Jayam’ Ravi and was a distributor of the film Yaaruda Magesh (2013). When actor Vijay’s Thalaiva (2013) faced problems in release due to its political undertones and got acrimonious reactions from AIADMK, it was Anbazhagan who came forward to release the film.

Anbazhagan was also known for his philanthropic activities.

“Being a politician, he never misused his powers when somebody approached him for any help. Once, a person needed kidney transplantation. When Anbazhagan came to know about this, he ordered his cadres to ensure that the transplant was done in a proper way, starting from registering with the government to finding a donor. He kept his philanthropic activities hidden from the media. His demise has become a loss for many families,” said Chitrarasu, a youth wing secretary of the party.

Though Anbazhagan was close to the party’s top brass, he never asked for any position for his sons in the party. His sons still run the fruit shop established by their grandfather and one can find the shop at the entrance of Ranganathan Street in Thiyagaraya Nagar. It is named Anbazhagan Pazhakkadai.