Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam patriarch and former Tamil Nadu chief minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi is no more. The end came at 6.10 pm on Tuesday. The 94-year-old stalwart had been battling ill health for more than a year, not long after he was elected to the assembly for the 13th time in 2016.
His condition deteriorated on July 28 when his blood pressure dropped and he was hospitalised. Since then, his condition had been fluctuating and he remained in the intensive care unit till the end. Legions of party workers had been camping outside the hospital since he was brought in, raising slogans and praying for their beloved leader’s recovery.
In a chequered and eventful political career spanning over 70 years, Karunanidhi defined the ethos of an era. His political acumen, steadfast Dravidian ideology, writing and oratorical skills, besides his charisma, all in equal measure contributed to his emergence as one of the tallest political leaders of the country.
Karunanidhi had the longest stint as chief minister of the state; he was at the helm for 19 years, though with several breaks. He won every election he contested since 1957. At the helm of the party for nearly half a century, his shrewdness in stitching up alliances and performing tactical manoeuvres ensured that the DMK always had a strategic role in the state and on occasions became a force to reckon with at the national level.
Even when the party was not in office for 13 years (1976-1989), Karunanidhi held the DMK flock together by keeping their spirits alive through a daily dose of letters in the party organ, ‘Murasoli’, and fiery speeches to party workers. It’s only the second time in the DMK’s nearly 70-year history that a leadership change will take place, a testament to the firm control Karunanidhi had over the party after he succeeded C N Annadurai at the helm in 1969.
In 1975, when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency and hounded every opposition party leader, Karunanidhi was the first chief minister to oppose it. However, his move to uphold democracy led to the dismissal of his government in Tamil Nadu and eventually his arrest along with scores of DMK leaders under the draconian MISA.
Adversity brought out the best in him. Karunanidhi had been jailed and controversies dogged him right through his career. He fought hard for his convictions and always bounced back through sheer grit, determination and hard work. His atheistic outlook and anti-Brahmin stand were not looked upon kindly by the devout.