Karunanidhi laid to rest at Chennai's Marina Beach, DMK sees a son rise

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays his last respects to DMK chief M Karunanidhi at Rajaji Hall, in Chennai. Photo: PTI
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) President M Karunanidhi was on Wednesday laid to rest at Chennai’s Marina Beach, close to his mentor Annadurai's burial ground, plunging millions of his supporters into grief. 

The five-time Chief Minister, who died on Tuesday at 94, was accompanied by tens of thousands of mourners in his last journey to his resting place, which was finalised after a dramatic court hearing in a controversy over the choice of the site.

Top politicians cutting across party lines, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi, and film celebrities paid homage to the veteran politician.

A message inscribed on the casket carrying Karunanidhi’s body said "Oivedukkamal Uzhaithavan Idho Oivu Kondirukkiran (the one who worked without taking rest is taking rest here)”. 

Karunanidhi's body was kept at Rajaji Hall before being taken to the burial site. By noon, the crowd that gathered to pay tributes went out of control. Two people were killed and 20 injured in a stampede outside the hall, according to reports. 

DMK Working President and Karunanidhi’s son, M K Stalin, requested party workers to maintain peace and cooperate for the leader's final journey. Stalin and his sister, Kanimozhi, were seen throughout the day next to Karunanidhi's body. His other two sons, M K Muthu and M K Azhagiri, were missing.

After the burial, the Tricolour that wrapped the casket was handed to Stalin, in apparently an indication of who will lead the party after Karunanidhi.

There was uncertainty over the ceremony till the morning, as the state government initially refused opposition DMK’s request for a burial site near Marina Beach’s Anna Memorial, the burial ground of Karunanidhi's mentor and former CM Annadurai.

Former Chief Minister M G Ramachandran and his charismatic protegee, J Jayalalitha, who died in December 2016, were buried at the Marina beach and their memorials were erected there. Both were bitter foes of Karunanidhi in politics.

The DMK approached the Madras High Court against the state's decision, and bench led by Acting Chief Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh directed the government to allot a place at Marina. The state did not appeal to the Supreme Court against the order. A public interest litigation, however, was moved in the apex court, which refused to stay the funeral.

Death of a leader

Karunanidhi, passed away in a Chennai hospital on Tuesday evening around 6.10 pm, after being hospitalised for several days. He had been ailing from various diseases, including urinary tract infection and other age-related ailments. 

He was the President of the DMK for 50 years, a rare achievement for a politician in the country. Karunanidhi entered politics at a young age, and his political career took off with the anti-Hindi agitation during 1937-38. His first win in assembly elections came in 1957. He became the Chief Minister for the first time in 1969. 

People gather to pay last respects to DMK chief M Karunanidhi in Chennai. PTI

His body was taken to his houses in Gopalapuram and CIT Nagar in the night. His body was taken to Rajaji Hall at 5 am.

PM Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Tamil Nadu Governor Bhanwarilal Purohit, Congress President Gandhi, Telangana Chief Minister Chandrasekara Rao, Kerala Governor Chief Justice Sadhasivam and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, among others, paid homage to him at Rajaji Hall.

The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha too paid tributes to Karunanidhi on Wednesday, as the central government announced a day's mourning in the country. The national flag flew half-mast in a mark of respect for the late political leader.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and other ministers paid their respects in the morning. The state government declared Wednesday as a holiday and announced mourning for a week. The normal life in Chennai was affected as shops remained closed and people stayed off the roads. 

DMK succession plan 

M K Stalin
Political analysts feel that while the death of Karunanidhi leaves a vacuum, his DMK, which is currently the second largest in the State Assembly and acting as an opposition party, will not see a major challenge.

With Karunanidhi suffering from ailments for the last two years, Stalin was appointed the DMK Working President and the Opposition leader in the Assembly. Despite earlier reports of a rift between Alagiri and Stalin, the succession plan appears to have been implemented effectively. 

While Alagiri was present during Karunanidhi's last moments and also during his funeral ceremony, he was not seen at Rajaji Hall.

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