MUTHUVEL KARUNANIDHI, a titan of modern Indian history, whose 75-year career in politics — as five-term CM of Tamil Nadu and DMK president for 50 years — deepened the idea of federalism and inspired regional assertion and self respect in politics like no one else, passed away on Tuesday evening.
MUTHUVEL KARUNANIDHI, a titan of modern Indian history, whose 75-year career in politics — as five-term CM of Tamil Nadu and DMK president for 50 years — deepened the idea of federalism and inspired regional assertion and self respect in politics like no one else, passed away on Tuesday evening. “With deep anguish, we announce the demise of our beloved Kalaignar Dr M Karunanidhi on August 8, 2018 at 6.10 pm. Despite the best possible efforts by our team of doctors and nurses to resuscitate him, he failed to respond. We profoundly mourn the loss of one of the tallest leaders of India and we share the grief of family members and fellow
Tamilians worldwide,” said a statement issued by Dr Aravindan Selvaraj, executive director, Kauvery Hospital, Chennai.
The announcement triggered mourning across Tamil Nadu, and among the hundreds of DMK workers who had gathered outside the hospital over the last few days. Leading the tributes to the DMK chief, Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by the passing away of Kalaignar Karunanidhi. He was one of the senior most leaders of India. We have lost a deep-rooted mass leader, prolific thinker, accomplished writer and a stalwart whose life was devoted to the welfare of the poor and the marginalised.”
Posting a series of pictures of him with Karunanidhi, Modi wrote: “Kalaignar Karunanidhi stood for regional aspirations as well as national progress. He was steadfastly committed to the welfare of Tamils and ensured that Tamil Nadu’s voice was effectively heard.”
For most of his early political career, Karunanidhi straddled the world of cinema, too — as a script writer known for his powerful dialogues who finally ended up outshining the stars who spoke his lines. He also used the medium to further his political ideology.
Karunanidhi also wielded considerable influence beyond his own state, in the corridors of power in Delhi, sewing up alliances with both the Congress and the BJP, often drawing criticism from his rivals, who called him an opportunist.
Hugely influenced by the rationalist and egalitarian ideology of EV Ramasamy ‘Periyar’, and the DMK founder and the state’s first chief minister CN Annadurai, Karunanidhi became one of the most enduring mascots of the Dravidian movement, which aimed at seeking equal rights for the depressed sections and women, and was against Brahminism.
Elected to the legislative assembly 13 times, Karunanidhi became chief minister for the first time following the death of Annadurai in February 1969 — with the support of MG Ramachandran, his junior and one of the most charismatic actors of his time. Years later, the two parted ways, with MGR, as Ramachandran was popularly called, forming the AIADMK, which was to become a perennial thorn in Karunanidhi’s side.
Karunanidhi was a legislator for six decades since 1957, when he won for the first time from Kulithalai constituency, till 2016, when he emerged victorious from Tiruvarur as a 92-year-old, barring the period between 1986 and 1989. In 1984, he was elected to the legislative council, which was abolished by the MGR government in 1986. He had resigned as MLA in 1983 over the Sri Lankan Tamils issue. After assuming the reins of the state government, Karunanidhi became the DMK chief in July 1969, a post he held till death.