A Dravidian TITAN Passes Away Leaving Great Vaccum in TN Politics

By Sarkaritel August 9, 2018 11:39

A Dravidian TITAN Passes Away Leaving Great Vaccum in TN Politics

A Dravidian TITAN Passes Away Leaving Great Vaccum in TN Politics

Muthuvel  Karunanidhi ( 1924 -2018) RIP

By T N Ashok

The troubled 1960s, a Hindi chauvinistic lobby forced then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to impose Hindi as a national language and as a compulsory subject in the curriculum of schools and languages. The dravididians saw this as an affront to their linguistic pride of Tamil being older than Sanskrit and Hindi being its offspring. Statewide agitiations were launched by the undivided DMK through the college students.

That was the beginning of the end of the Congress in 1967 when it lost the elections to the newly founded DMK under the scholar CN Annadurai and the mantle was to pass onto his deputy Muthuvel Karunanidhi , deep into the DK’s rationalist movement and atheism, who held sway as Chief Minister of the state five times at different periods of time. The rise of Karuanidhi and his close friend MGR as both scriptwriter and film star was phenomenal which ultimately catapulted Karunanidhi onto the political stage. His life history is interesting and rich and health as himself who lived a ripe age of 95 years and held control over is party for over 50 years.  

Muthuvel Karunanidhi (3 June 1924 – 7 August 2018) was essentially an tamil poet and essayist turned politician,  who served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for five terms and twenty years between 1969 and 2011. He was a long-standing leader of the Dravidian movement ( which was essentially rationalist and atheist and against brahminism which was based on idol worship of a hindu pantheon of gods) and ten-time president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam political party.

His stint in the film industry and world of tamil literature , before entering politics,  has led to a rich legacy of esssays, stories ,  plays, novels, and a multiple-volume memoir, all tracing and delving deep into tamil culture as being one of the richest in the world. Even in is late 80-‘s he penned historical serials shown on tamil TV channels.

Popularly referred to as Kalaignar or the artist, Karunanidhi died on 7 August 2018 at Kauvery Hospital in Chennai after prolonged, age-related illness. It is reported that his daughter Kannimozhi , an MP, and only daughter through is 3rd wife has a stake in the maduri owned promoters of Cauvery hospital in Chennai.

Like poetic justice, a man who fought for Cauvery waters for the farmers of Tamil Nadu , he died in Kauvery hospital surrounded by is kith and kind a legions followers from the state outside the alwarpet based hospital, a posh localicity in south Chennai which boasts of property rates of rs 25,000 per square foot.

Born in Thirukkuvalai village in Nagapattinam district, he was born as a son of Muthuvelu and Anju. Karunanidhi was more interested in drama, poetry, and literature during his schooling.  Karunanidhi, who was inspired by the speaker Azhagirisamy,  considered the pillar of the Justice Party, completely engaged in social movements at his 14th age. With the help of some of his students in the field of youth, the “youth revitalized the organization”. The organization helped young people develop their inspiration and writing. After some time, the state was formed as a state-level “All Students Club.” This was the first student division of the Dravidian movement.


Karunanidhi also engaged the student community in social work with other members. DMK The party’s official newspaper, Murasoli, started developing a newspaper for its members. The first major opposition to Karunanidhi’s support for Tamil politics involved in the Kallukudi demonstration (1953). The original name of this industrial city is Kallagudi. Dalmiya, which set up a cement plant is from North India and changed the original name Kallakkudi to Dalmiyapuram. DMK opposed the name change as it was seen as North Indian oppression of Tamil Nadu. Karunanidhi and his comrades posted papers on the name “Dalmiyaapuram” in the railway station name board and block the passage of the trains. Two people died in the demonstration by the police action and Karunanidhi was arrested, historical records posted on wikepedia reveal.

Karunanidhi married three times. His first wife was Padmavathi and they had a son M. K. Muthu, who he tried to promote as an alternative to the charismatic |MGR when the two thick friends split, ( no better than watching Maniratham’s magnus opus Iruvar which tracks the lives of the three greats – Karunanidi, MGR and Jayalalitha and their relationship ) Muthu could not match the charisma of MGR and flopped and disappointed his father . He too died after some years depressed over is failure and lack of attention from his father. His mother Padmavathi died early, and Karunanidhi married Dayalu Ammal with whom he had three sons, M. K. AlagiriM. K. Stalinand M. K. Tamilarasu, and a daughter, M. K. Selvi. Alagiri and Stalin are active in state politics and competed to be their father’s political successors, before Stalin prevailed. Tamilarasu is a businessman and film-producer and campaigner for his father and his party; Selvi campaigned for Karunanidhi elections too. With his third wife, Rajathi Ammal, Karunanidhi had a daughter, Kanimozhi, who is seen as his literary heir.


Karunanidhi awards Kalaimamani

See also: Parasakthi (1952 film) and Tamil cinema and Dravidian politics

Karunanidhi began his career as a screenwriter in the Tamil film industry. His first movie as screen writer was Rajakumari produced by Coimbatore based Jupiter Pictures directed by A. S. A. Sami starring M. G. Ramachandran. During this period he and M. G. Ramachandran, then an upcoming actor and later day founder of AIADMK party started a long friendship eventually turning into rivals in later years politics. His stint with Jupiters Pictures then housed at Central Studios continued for another MGR starrer Abhimanyu (1948 film)Marudhanaattu Ilavarasi (1950) starring M. G. Ramachandranand V. N. Janaki, whom |MGR later married.

Around late 1949, T. R. Sundaram of Modern Theatres Studio in Salem engaged Karunanidhi as scriptwriter for the film Manthiri Kumari starring M. G. Ramachandran which would become become  a blockbuster hit. Later T. R. Sundaram had Karunanidhi on permanent rolls at Modern Studio.


His most notable movie was Parasakthi.(The Great Power) , a turning point in Tamil cinema, as it espoused the ideologies of the Dravidian movement and also introduced two prominent actors of Tamil filmdom, Sivaji Ganesan and S. S. Rajendran. The movie was initially marred with controversies and faced censorship troubles, but was eventually released in 1952. becoming a huge box office hit. The movie was opposed by orthodox Hindus since it contained elements that criticized Brahmanism.[

Two other movies written by Karunanidhi that contained such messages were Panam (1952) directed by famous comedian and political activist N. S. Krishnan and Thangarathnam (1960) produced and acted by S. S. Rajendran another popular actor and DMK activist..[15] These movies contained themes such as widow remarriage, abolition of untouchability, self-respect marriages, abolition of zamindari and abolition of religious hypocrisy.. Another memorable hit movie was Manohara (1954) starring Sivaji Ganesan, S. S. Rajendran and P. Kannamba known for its crisp dialouges.

MK”s racy scripts

Through his wit and oratorical skills he rapidly rose as a popular politician. As his movies and plays with strong social messages became popular, they suffered from increased censorship; two of his plays in the 1950s were banned. He was famous for writing historical and social (reformist) stories which propagated the socialist and rationalist ideals of the Dravidian movement to which he belonged. Alongside C. N. Annadurai he began using Tamil cinema to propagate his political ideals through his movies.


At the age of 20, Karunanidhi went to work for Jupiter Pictures as a scriptwriter. His first film, Rajakumaari, gained him much popularity. It was here that his skills as a scriptwriter were honed, which extended to several films. He was active in screenwriting even during his later political career till 2011 when he last wrote for historic movie Ponnar Shankar.


Karunanidhi seen with actor Sivaji Ganesan

Karunanidhi is known for his contributions to Tamil literature. His contributions cover a wide range: poems, letters, screenplays, novels, biographies, historical novels, stage-plays, dialogues and movie songs. He has written Kuraloviam for Thirukural, Tholkaappiya Poonga, Poombukar, as well as many poems, essays and books. Apart from literature, Karunanidhi has also contributed to the Tamil languagethrough art and architecture. Like the Kuraloviyam, in which Kalaignar wrote about Thirukkural, through the construction of Valluvar Kottamhe gave an architectural presence to Thiruvalluvar, in Chennai. At Kanyakumari, Karunanidhi’s government enabled  construction of a 133-foot-high statue of Thiruvalluvar in honour of the great tamil scholar, who works are like bible to tamils.


The books written by Karunanidhi include Sanga ThamizhThirukkural UraiPonnar SankarRomapuri PandianThenpandi SingamVellikizhamaiNenjukku NeedhiIniyavai Irubathu and Kuraloviam. His books of prose and poetry number more than 100.

Stage plays

Karunanidhi’s stage plays include: ManimagudamOre RathamPalaniappanThooku MedaiKagithapooNaane ArivaliVellikizhamaiUdhayasooriyan and Silappathikaram.


Entry into politics

Karunanidhi entered politics at the age of 14, inspired by a speech by Alagiriswamii of the Justice Party, and participated in Anti-Hindi agitations. He founded an organisation for the local youth of his locality. He circulated a handwritten newspaper called Manavar Nesan to its members.

Later he founded a student organisation called Tamil Nadu Tamil Manavar Mandram, which was the first student wing of the Dravidan Movement. Karunanidhi involved himself and the student community in social work with other members. Here he started a newspaper for its members, which grew into Murasoli, the DMK party’s official newspaper.

The first major protest that aided Karunanidhi in gaining ground in Tamil politics was his involvement in the Kallakudi agitation in Kallakudi. Original name of this industrial town was Kallakudi and it was changed to Dalmiapuram after a cement mogul who built a cement plant there. DMK wanted to change the name back to Kallakudi. In the protest Karunanidhi and his companions erased the name Dalmiapuram from the railway station and lay down on the tracks blocking the course of trains. Two people died in the protest and Karunanidhi was arrested.

Rise to power

At the age of 33, Karunanidhi entered the Tamil Nadu assembly by winning the Kulithalai seat in the 1957 election. He became the DMK treasurer in 1961 and deputy leader of opposition in the state assembly in the year 1962 and when the DMK came to power in 1967, he became the Minister for Public Works.

Chief Minister

When Annadurai expired in 1969, Karunanidhi became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the first leader of DMK, since the leader post was customarily left vacant for Periyar during Annadurai time as Annadurai was party general secretary only. He has held various positions in the party and government during his long career in Tamil Nadu political arena.

70’s and Emergency

During the Emergency DMK was the only ruling party that opposed the emergency for which his government was summarily dismissed by Indira Gandhi’s government and many of his party leaders were arrested till emergency was lifted. Later D.M.K teamed with Janata Party post emergency but suffered defeat at assembly elections under accusations of corruption.

His one time friend M. G. Ramachandran who floated his AIADMK party after being sacked by Karunanidhi from DMK few years back would come to power in Tamil Nadu. DMK suffered multiple electoral defeats against, his primary opponent M.G.Ramachandran’s, AIADMK until the latter’s death in 1987.

80’s & 90’s

After a brief stint as Chief Minister during the late 1980s (his government was dismissed by the Central government on accusations of degrading Law and Order situation in the state) after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. Karunanidhi became the CM of Tamil Nadu in 1996 following a sweeping electoral win in the preceding elections. Following a 5-year rule, his party again lost at the elections to J. Jayalalithaa‘s AIADMK in 2001.

2000’s :He was however back in power when he took over as chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on 13 May 2006 after his coalition defeated his main opponent J. Jayalalithaa in the May 2006 elections. At the end of the 5-year administration, the DMK lost the majority of seats in the legislative assembly of Tamil Nadu when elections were held in 2011, thereby ceding power again to the AIADMK under J. Jayalalithaa. During the 2016 closely fought elections DMK narrowly lost seats against J. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK. Till his death He represented the constituency of Tiruvarur in the Tamil Nadu state Legislative Assembly. He has been elected to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly 13 times (from 1957 to 2016 elections) and once to the now abolished Tamil Nadu Legislative Council.

World Tamil Conference

He delivered the special address on the inaugural day of 3rd World Tamil Conference held in Paris in 1970, and also on the inaugural day of 6th World Tamil Conference held in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) in 1987. He penned the song “Semmozhiyaana Tamizh Mozhiyaam“, the official theme song for the World Classical Tamil Conference 2010, that was set to tune by A. R. Rahman.[21]

‘Ulaga Tamizh Manadu’ [ World Tamil Conference ], was the first coined word for the conference in 2010, however the IATR organisation that had right to conduct the conference was not happy hence change in name.

Illness, death and reactions

Karunanidhi was in poor health from October 2016 and minimized his political activities and public appearances, with the last one being on his 94th birthday on 3 June 2018. On 28 July 2018, Karunanidhi’s health deteriorated and became “extremely critical and unstable”, and he was admitted at Kauvery Hospital in Chennai for treatment. He died there at 6:10 p.m. on 7 August 2018 due to age-related illness, which led to multiple organ failure. The government of Tamil Nadu  declared a public holiday on 8 August 2018 and a seven-day mourning after Karunanidhi’s death.

A national mourning on 8 August 2018 was announced by the government of India. The national flag was flown at half-mast in Delhi, all state capitals and across Tamil Nadu on 8 August 2018. The governments of Karnataka and Bihar announced one-day and two-days state mourning respectively.[27]

Awards and titles

Karunanidhi in Paavendhar Tamil Literature & Research library

  • Annamalai University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1971.
  • He was awarded “Raja Rajan Award” by Tamil University, Thanjavur for his book Thenpandi Singam.[28]
  • On 15 December 2006, the Governor of Tamil Nadu and the Chancellor of Madurai Kamaraj University, Surjit Singh Barnala conferred an honorary doctorate on the Chief Minister on the occasion of the 40th annual convocation.
  • In June 2007,[29][30][31] the Tamil Nadu Muslim Makkal Katchi announced that it would confer the title “Friend of the Muslim Community” (Yaaran-E-Millath) upon M. Karunanidhi.


MK was been indicted by the Sarkaria commission for corruption in allotting tenders for the Veeranam project. Indira Gandhi dismissed the Karunanidhi government based on charges of possible secession and corruption. In 2001, he was arrested on the charges of corruption in the construction of flyovers in Chennai. He and his party members were also charged under four Sections like IPC 120(b), IPC 167, IPC 420 and IPC 409.

Ram Setu remarks

In response to the Sethusamudram controversy, Karunanidhi questioned the existence of the Hindu God Rama. He said ‘It is said that there was a God thousands of years ago called Ram. Do not touch the bridge built by him. I ask who this Ram is. Which engineering college did he graduate from?” His remarks caused a firestorm of controversy. BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Karunanidhi of religious discrimination when noting “We would like to know from Karunanidhi if he would make a similar statement against religious head of any other religion; chance are he may not.

Connections with LTTE

The interim report of Justice Jain Commission, which oversaw the investigation into Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, indicted Karunanidhi for abetting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The interim report recommended that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and the DMK party be held responsible for abetting Rajiv Gandhi’s murderers. The final report contained no such allegations. In April 2009, in an interview to NDTV, Karunanidhi made a controversial remark stating that “Prabhakaran is my good friend” and also said, “India could not forgive the LTTE for assassinating Rajiv Gandhi”.

Allegations of nepotism

Karunanidhi has been accused by opponents, by some members of his party, and by other political observers of trying to promote nepotism. Many political opponents and DMK party senior leaders have been critical of the rise of M. K. Stalin in the party.] But some of the party men have pointed out that Stalin has come up on his own. He has faced a lot of hardship since 1975, when he was jailed under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) and was beaten up in jail so brutally during the Emergency that a fellow DMK party prisoner died trying to save him. Stalin was an MLA in 1989 and 1996 when his father Karunanidhi was the Chief Minister, but he was not inducted into the Cabinet. He became Chennai’s 44th mayor and its first directly elected mayor in 1996.

It was only in his fourth term as MLA that he was made a Minister in the Karunanidhi cabinet and then in 2009 was made the Deputy Chief Minister. Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi is a Rajya Sabha MP now.

Elections contested and positions held

Karunanidhi contested and won in all Tamil Nadu Assembly general elections (then Madras) since 1957 except 1984 when he didn’t contest the election.

Year Constituency Result Vote percentage Opposition Candidate Opposition Party Opposition vote percentage
1957 Kulithalai Won K. A. Dharmalingam INC
1962 Thanjavur Won A. Y. S. Parisutha Nadar INC
1967 Saidapet Won S. G. Vinayagamurthy INC
1971 Saidapet Won Kudanthai Ramalingam Congress (O)
1977 Anna Nagar Won 50.1 G. Krishnamurthy ADMK 30.98[43]
1980 Anna Nagar Won 48.97 H.V.Hande ADMK 48.31[43]
1984 Not Contested Not Contested Not Contested Not Contested Not Contested Not Contested
1989 Harbour Won 59.76 K.A.Wahab Muslim League 13.84[44]
1991 Harbour Won 48.66 K. Suppu ADMK 47.26[44]
1996 Chepauk Won 77.05 N.S. Nellai Kannan INC 17.24[45]
2001 Chepauk Won 51.91 R. Damodharan INC 43.5[45]
2006 Chepauk Won 50.96 Dawood Miah Khan Independent 38.25[45]
2011 Thiruvarur Won 62.9 M. Rajendran ADMK 33.93[46]
2016 Thiruvarur Won R. Pannerselvam ADMK

Posts in legislature

Assembly From To Position Party – Number of seats
/Seats contested
Third Assembly 1962 1967 Deputy Leader of the Opposition 50/143[47]
Fourth Assembly 1967 1969 State Minister for Public Works 138/233[48]
Fourth Assembly 10 February 1969 5 January 1971 Chief Minister (1)[49] 136/233[50]
Fifth Assembly 15 March 1971 31 January 1976 Chief Minister (2)[49] 182/203[51]
Sixth Assembly 25 July 1977 17 February 1980 Leader of the Opposition (1)[49] 48/230[52]
Seventh Assembly 27 June 1980 18 August 1983 Leader of the Opposition (2)[49] 37/112[53]
Ninth Assembly 27 January 1989 30 January 1991 Chief Minister (3)[49] 150/202[54]
Tenth Assembly 26 April 1991 30 March 1996 MLA [49] 2/176 [55]
Eleventh Assembly 13 May 1996 14 May 2001 Chief Minister (4)[49] 173/182[56]
Thirteenth Assembly 13 May 2006 14 May 2011 Chief Minister (5)[49] 96/132[57]
Fourteenth Assembly 16 May 2011 19 May 2016 MLA 23/124
Fifteenth Assembly 19 May 2016 Present MLA 89/176



By Sarkaritel August 9, 2018 11:39