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DMK leader M. Karunanidhi passes away at 94

M. Karunanidhi (File photo: IANS)
M. Karunanidhi (File photo: IANS)
Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam patriarch M. Karunanidhi, who played a stellar role in state politics for decades and whose party played an influential role in national politics,  passed away here today due to age-related problems.
 
He was 94.
 
"With deep anguish, we announce the demise of our beloved Kaiaignar Dr. M. Karunanidhi on 07.08.2018 at 06.10 PM. Despite the best possible efforts by our team of doctors and nurses to rescuscitate him, he failed to respond," a statement from Kauvery Hospital, where he was admitted on July 28, said.
 
""We profoundly mourn the loss of one of the tallest leaders of India and share the grief of family members and fellow Tamilians worldwide," the statement by Dr. Aravindan Selvaraj, Executive Director of the hospital, said.
 
A five-time Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Karunanidhi was in a critical state throughout his 11-day stay in hospital and his health deteriorated further today. The hospital had earlier in the day described his condition as "extremely critical and unstable".
 
Thousands of DMK supporters, men and women, stood vigil outside the hospital during the past few days, hoping against hope that their leader would recover.
 
"Ezhundhu Vaa Thalaivaa" (Awake, our leader) and "Vaa, Vaa, Gopalapuram Polaam Vaa" (Come, Come, let's go to Gopalapuram) were some of the slogans they raised, in a reference to the locality where the former Chief Minister lived.
 
Ahead of the announcement, the Tamil Nadu police stepped up security arrangements in Chennai and all other parts of the state.
 
Earlier in the day, Karunanidhi's son and DMK leader M.K. Stalin met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswami along with his family members and senior party colleagues. 
 
Karunanidhi was admitted to the hospital on July 18 for change of tracheostomy tube. 
On July 26, the hospital said Karunanidhi was suffering from a urinary tract infection and he was being treated at home with intravenous anti-biotics and fluids.
 
His condition worsened on July 28 with a drop in his blood perssure and he was shifted to the hospital, where he finally breathed his last this evening.
 
During his hospitalisation, dignitaries such as President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and several other leaders visited the hospital and met Stalin and other members of his family.
 
IANS adds:
 
The news of the mass leader's death cast a pall of gloom across the sprawling state which he had enticed all his political career through powerful oratory and script writing that changed the course of politics and the way Tamil cinema was made and helped the DMK's growth. He was just 14 when be became a student activist.
 
Men and women, who had been praying for their leader's recovery, wailed outside the hospital as news of his death broke. By then, Chennai was already tense, with residents stocking essentials like milk and vegetables anticipating a state-wide shutdown. 
 
The mortal remains of the DMK President will be taken to his home in Gopalapuram here and then to Rajaji Hall for people to pay their last respects. The Tamil Nadu government announced a week-long mourning.
 
A DMK leader said Karunanidhi's mortal remains will be laid to rest on Wednesday.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a host of Chief Ministers, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and several others from across the country are expected to fly to Chennai on Wednesday.
 
Karunanidhi leaves two wives -- Dayalu and Rajathi, three sons including DMK Working President M.K. Stalin and former Union Minister M.K. Alagiri, daughter Kanimozhi (MP) and several grandchildren.
 
The DMK patriarch, who had faded from public life for nearly two years, had been in and out of hospital on account of age-related ailments. 
 
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Even before the grim bulletins on his health were issued by the, Karunanidhi's family and the state appeared to be preparing for the inevitable.
 
Stalin accompanied by Alagiri and Kanimozhi and top leaders of the party met Chief Minister E. Palaniswami and pressed for Karunanidhi's body to be interred on the Marina Beach near DMK stalwart C.N. Annadurai's mausoleum. But the government declined the request. 
 
Karunanidhi, who only 10 days ago completed 49 years as DMK chief, led his party through various ups and downs against charismatic rivals M.G. Ramachandran, who had banished him to the opposition ranks till his own death in 1987, and J. Jayalalithaa, who died in 2016. 
 
From 1967, when the DMK ousted the Congress for ever from power in the state, Tamil Nadu has been ruled either by the DMK or AIADMK.
 
Succeeding his mentor Annadurai in 1969 as Chief Minister, Karunanidhi maintained a strong hold over the party and government.
 
Though he didn't aspire for politics beyond Tamil Nadu, the multi-faceted leader played key roles in national politics starting from when he aligned with Indira Gandhi in 1969 on issues like bank nationalisation and later in the formation of coalition governments under V.P. Singh, H.D. Deve Gowda, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.
 
Once the ethnic conflict erupted in Sri Lanka in 1983, Karunanidhi became a champion of the Tamil cause and, later, the Tamil Tigers, often putting pressure on New Delhi to change its course vis-a-vis Colombo. But the LTTE's assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 almost wiped out the DMK, leaving him as the sole winner in Assembly elections.
 
It was one of the 13 Assembly elections he never lost and which helped him rule Tamil Nadu five times.
 
As Chief Minister, he had pioneered several welfare schemes and introduced freebies in the country's politics. An avowed atheist, Karunanidhi was known for his trademark dark glasses as well as a yellow stole. The latter, critics felt, betrayed his hidden superstitious feelings.
 
NNN
 

(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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