End of an era: DMK President M Karunanidhi passes away at 94

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK Supremo M Karunanidhi passed away on August 7, 2018, in Chennai. BS Photo by T E Narasimhan
Muthuvel Karunanidhi, 94, the five-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu and president of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) passed away in Chennai on Tuesday. He entered the 50th year as the president of DMK late last month, the longest tenure by a person as head of one of Tamil Nadu's major Dravidian parties. 

"With deep anguish, we announce the demise of our beloved Kalaignar Dr M Karunanidhi on August 7, 2018 at 6.10 p.m. Despite the best possible efforts by our team of doctors and nurses to resuscitate him, he failed to respond," said a release by Chennai's Kauvery Hospital, where he was undergoing treatment.

Authorities, apprehensive about law and order problems, stepped up security in Tamil Nadu, especially in capital Chennai, after Karunanidhi's death. Shops, theatres and hotels downed shutters, and offices asked people to leave early as a large number of DMK supporters thronged the hospital.

DMK Working President and Karunanidhi's son, M K Stalin, requested DMK workers outside the hospital to leave the area peacefully. He also asked them not to hurt Karunanidhi's legacy and ensure that people do not face any hardship.

Private bus operators decided to stop services to and from Chennai till Wednesday evening after a large number of passengers cancelled their tickets as a precautionary measure, said an office-bearer of All Omni Bus Operators Association.

"My thoughts are with the family and the countless supporters of Karunanidhi Ji in this hour of grief. India and particularly Tamil Nadu will miss him immensely. May his soul rest in peace," tweeted PM Modi, who is likely to arrive in Chennai on Wednesday.

President Ram Nath Kovind posted: "Extremely sad to learn of the passing of Thiru M. Karunanidhi. A doyen of our public life, as a contributor to the development of Tamil Nadu and of India he has few peers. Our country is poorer today. My condolences to his family and millions of well-wishers." 

Karunanidhi’s body will be taken to his residence in Gopalapuram and then to Rajaji Hall, where people can pay their tributes to the late leader. 

The 94-year-old leader was admitted to Kauvery Hospital on July 26 due to age-related complications. Karunanidhi had been suffering from various ailments since October 2016. For the past few years, Karunanidhi was confined to a wheelchair. Following the illness, he also stayed away from political activities and, in January 2017, his son, M K Stalin, was appointed the working president of the party. 

Karunanidhi was known for his contribution to Tamil literature and film industry for several years, apart from playing a major role in Tamil Nadu's politics for almost over seven decades. 

Born on June 3, 1924, to Muthuvel and Anjugam, at Thirukuvalai in Tiruvarur, around 320 kilometres from Chennai, he was named Dakshinamurthy, which he later changed to Karunanidhi. He was known as Kalaignar, a scholar of arts, for his literary work.

He entered politics at the age of 14 and participated in anti-Hindi agitations in 1937. His protest at Kallakudi, in Trichy, to change the name of the railway station from Dalmiapuram to Kallakudi became a turning point in his political career.

He was one of the few politicians who did not lose even one election to the Legislative Assembly. He won his first Assembly seat from Kulithalai, in Trichy, in 1957 and became a minister of public works in 1967, when Annadurai was chief minister.

In two years, Annadurai expired and Karunanidhi became the chief minister of the state for the first time in 1969. He also became the party president during the year and held the position until his death. Later, the party was split and actor-cum-politician M G Ramachandran formed a new party under the name All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

Karunanidhi's government was dismissed twice. First in January 1976, allegedly for a resolution passed by the DMK head council against the Emergency imposed by the central government, and in January 1991, for its alleged links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

He was arrested by the police in 2001, when Jayalalithaa was chief minister, over alleged corruption in the construction of flyovers in Chennai.

As a writer, he wrote poems, screenplays, novels, biographies, historical novels and screenplays. He was also instrumental in constructing a 133-foot-high statue of Thiruvalluvar, the famous poet, in Kanyakumari.

Several decisions and measures related to the growth of industry in the state were taken during his various tenures. It was during his tenure that manufacturers, including Nokia, Foxconn, Mahindra and Mahindra, Renault and Nissan, decided to set up their manufacturing facilities near Chennai, said sources.

Karunanidhi had three wives -- late Padmavathy Ammal, Dayalu Ammal and Rajathiammaal -- four sons and two daughters -- M K Muthu, M K Alagiri, M K Stalin, Selvi, M K Tamilarasu and Kanimozhi. Alagiri was a Union minister during the UPA government, while Stalin is currently the treasurer of DMK and has been declared Karunanidhi's successor in the party. Kanimozhi was a Rajya Sabha MP. 

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