M Karunanidhi passes away at 94: A look at ‘Kalaignar’s’ journey

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New Delhi | Updated: August 7, 2018 6:58:49 PM

Muthuvel Karunanidhi commonly known as Kalaignar by his followers was one of the most powerful leaders in Tamil Nadu's political history.

Karunanidhi passes away at 94.

Muthuvel Karunanidhi commonly known as Kalaignar by his followers was one of the most powerful leaders in Tamil Nadu’s political history. The five-time chief minister of one of India’s largest states passed away on July 30, 2018 at the age of 94. Born in Thirrukkuvalai, near Thiruvarur, Karunanidhi was one of the founding members of the Dravidian Progressive Federation (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam; DMK) in 1949 and for decades served as the party president. He served as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu in 1969–71, 1971–76, 1989–91, 1996–2001, and 2006–11.

He was born in a small village and was the member of a caste of musicians. The patriarch had left school early and started working as a screenwriter in Tamil film industry. It is there that he honed the skills for the promotion of Dravidian movement against Brahamans, which later contributed to his rise as a politician.

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The DMK chief began his political career in his early teens with public protests against the use of Hindi language in the region. Karunanidhi had formed organisations for the local youth and students. He eventually started a newspaper which later on became the Murasoli. It is DMK’s official newspaper.

Karunanidhi became a close associate of DMK founder C.N. Annadurai and first received broader notice in Tamil politics when he led a 1953 protest in a town where its Tamil name had been replaced with one honouring an industrialist from northern India with a Hindi name.

The patriarch, running as an independent candidate, was first elected to the legislative assembly of Madras in 1957. From 1962 assembly polls, he was continually re-elected to that body. He became the treasurer of the party in 1961 and deputy leader of the opposition when the party entered the state assembly in 1962.

After DMK won the 1967 assembly elections, Annadurai became the CM, while Karunanidhi was named the minister for public works. After Annadurai’s death in early 1969, Kalaignar succeeded him as the head of DMK and as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

His first tenure lasted only until January 1971, but another DMK victory in assembly elections later that year returned him to the chief minister’s office.

However, in 1972, a new party, the All India Dravidian Progressive Federation, now known as AIADMK was formed after splitting from DMK. Thereafter, the two parties became the fierce rivals and traded terms in heading the state government.

In 1996, the DMK government-led by Karunanidhi had filed charges against J Jayalalitha, leader of AIADMK, who then spent a short time in jail.

In 2001, after the AIADMK had returned to power following assembly elections that year, Karunanidhi was arrested and briefly detained on corruption charges related to highway construction projects. The case was later dismissed.

In 2006, Karunanidhi at the age of 82, became the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for the fifth time, after a DMK-Congress alliance. In 2011, however, the party could not overcome the allegations of corruptions and the party was thoroughly trounced by the AIADMK in state elections. He was by then in poor health, but he remained the DMK’s supremo and continued to command immense popularity in Tamil Nadu politics.

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