Karunanidhi, who was known as Kalaignar, had turned 94 on June 3 and celebrated the occasion with cutting a cake with his family members. He even defied his health condition to appear before crowds of party workers and admirers at his residence in Gopalapuram, Chennai, that day and smiled and waved to them. That was to be possibly his last so-called public appearance.
On July 27, 2018, Karunanidhi entered the 50th year as DMK chief. Though he had not been making any public appearances due to his ill health, Kalaignar (artiste) held top sway in his party.
He had recently undergone a procedure to change his tracheostomy tube to help in breathing.
On that day, his son and party working president MK Stalin, in a tweet, said his father has been in public life for 80 years, in the entertainment industry for 70 years and in the legislature for 75 years.
Born on 3 June 1924, in Thirukuvalai, now in Nagapattinam district, Karunanidhi joined politics when he was in his teens. He took part in protests against the use of Hindi in the state.
While in school, he also started a newspaper that eventually became the Murasoli, the DMK’s official newspaper. The young Karunanidhi took part in school debates – that helped him hone his oratorical skills and hold captive his audience with his stirring speeches.
He became a close associate of DMK founder C.N. Annadurai and led the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party since the latter’s demise in 1969.
His foray into Tamil Nadu politics began with his participation in the Kallakudi agitation in 1953, to protest the changing of the name of the industrial town from Kallakudi to Dalmiapuram – after the cement baron who had built a cement plant there. The DMK was demanding the name be changed back to Kallakudi. During the protest, two people died and Karunanidhi was arrested.
Karunanidhi was a politician who knew the pulse of the masses and was close to them.
He was truly an intellectual — an orator par excellence, a novelist, lyricist, scriptwriter and politician. He was 20 when he started writing scripts of Tamil films. The 1947 film “Rajakumari” became a hit and there was no looking back for him. He had written the scripts for around 75 films.
He wrote the screenplay for the breakthrough films of both MGR Sivaji Ganesan. “Manthiri Kumari” – the film which gave MGR his breakthrough, and “Parasakthi” which gave Sivaji Ganesan his breakthrough, were both written by Karunanidhi.
Karunanidhi holds the record of winning a seat every time he has contested.
Karunanidhi was first elected to the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly in 1957 from Kulithalai seat of Tiruchirapalli district. He became the DMK treasurer in 1961 and deputy leader of the opposition when the party entered the state assembly the following year.
After the DMK won the 1967 assembly elections the party formed the government, and Annadurai became Chief Minister. Karunanidhi was named minister for public works. Annadurai died in early 1969, and Karunanidhi succeeded him as the head of the party and as chief minister. Though his first tenure lasted only until January 1971, the party won the assembly elections later that year and Karunanidhi returned to the chief minister’s office.
He has held various positions in the party and government during his long career in Tamil Nadu politics.
In 1972, a new party, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, (AIADMK), was formed after splitting from the DMK. The two parties became bitter rivals and headed the state government alternatively.
In 2006, at the age of 82, Karunanidhi became Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for the fifth time.
His wives were: Padmavathy, who died years ago, and Dayalu Ammal and Rajathi Ammal. M.K. Muthu, Padmavathy’s son, is Karunanidhi’s oldest child. He acted in a couple of films.
With second wife Dayalu Ammal, he had four children – former Union Minister M.K. Alagiri, who was expelled from the DMK by his father for anti party activities, M.K. Stalin, Karunanidhi’s chosen successor, Selvi a daughter, and Thamizarasu – the youngest son who is into film producing and real estate.
With third wife Rajathi Ammal, Karunanidhi had a daughter – Kanimozhi, Member of Parliament Rajya Sabha.
The verdict in the 2G spectrum allocation cases in December 2017, acquitting former Telecom Minister A Raja, DMK MP K Kanimozhi and all others accused, was a huge boost to the DMK party.