DMK Chief M Karunanidhi – five times Tamil Nadu chief minister (CM) who dominated state policy for six decades along with his archrival MG Ramachandran and later, J Jayalalithaa – died in a hospital in Chennai this afternoon. The 94-year-old leader was admitted to Kauvery Hospital on July 28 after contracting a urinary tract infection and developing a high fever.
He died at 6.10 PM. “Despite the best possible efforts of our team of doctors and nurses to resuscitate him, he did not respond,” the hospital said in a statement.
On July 29, the vital signs of Karunanidhi weakened and caused great concern, but the crisis passed in a matter of hours. Later, the hospital described it as a “transitory setback” and the doctors recommended a longer stay, citing “general decrease related to age, impaired liver function and hematological parameters.”
On Monday night, his health suffered a decline again. In a bulletin, the hospital said maintaining its vital functions of the organ remains “a challenge” in light of its age-related ailments and that the next 24 hours would be crucial.
The body of the president of DMK was taken to his home in Gopalapuram in Chennai and then taken to Rajaji Hall for people to pay their last respects. The mortal remains of Karunanidhi will be buried tomorrow.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences for the death of Karunanidhi, calling him a deeply rooted mass leader, a prolific thinker, a consummate writer and an unconditional dedicated to the welfare of the poor. In a series of tweets, he said:
“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.”
For more than a year, Karunanaidhi has been entering and leaving the hospital while recovering from a long illness. He lived an isolated life, without making public appearances except for occasional visits to his party’s office.
During the last stretch of his illness, President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President Venkiah Naidu and a number of political leaders from different sectors visited him, initially at his home and then at the hospital. Among them were Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, union minister Nitin Gadkari, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien, political actors Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth.
Like MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa, Karunanidhi left his burgeoning film career to pursue politics and the Dravidian movement led by Periyar EVR, which he joined shortly after it began in 1949. The “Kalaignar” (artist) was known for his film scripts, skill that helped him a lot in his political career. His powers of oratory granted him a cult status very similar to that of Jayalalithaa.
In 1969, Karunanidhi became the prime minister after the ideologist of DMK CN Annadurai died in office. Three years later, he fought with MG Ramachandran and expelled him from the party, which led to the formation of his lifelong rival, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagamor AIADMK.
The AIADMK came to power in 1977 and MGR ensured that the Karunanidhi party remained out of power while it was alive. Mr. Karunanidhi regained power in 1989 after the death of MGR. But in the emotional aftermath of the murder of Rajiv Gandhi, he was fired because he was seen close to Lankan’s LTTE, responsible for the bomb attack on the former prime minister.
He returned to power again in 1996, after charges of corruption caused a great loss in the face of Jayalalithaa. Since then, the two parties have been voted alternately, a tradition that broke in 2016, when Jayalalithaa was elected for a second consecutive term.