New Delhi, Aug 8:  After months of prolonged illness, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam patriarch and five-time Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi passed away at Kauvery Hospital on Tuesday evening. The 94-year-old veteran leader breathed his last at 6.10 PM yesterday. “Dr M Karunanidhi passed away at 6.10 PM. Despite best efforts of our doctors and nurses to resuscitate him, he failed to respond,” said the hospital, confirming the news.

“With deep anguish, we announce the demise of our beloved Kalaignar M Karunanidhi on 07.08.2018 at 6.10 pm. Despite the best possible efforts by our team of doctors and nurses to resuscitate him, he failed to respond. We profoundly mourn the loss of one of the tallest leaders of India and we share the grief of family members and fellow Tamilians worldwide,” a press release by Dr Aravindan Selvaraj, Executive Director of Kauvery Hospital, said.

Burial row erupts

Soon after Karunanidhi’s demise, a major controversy erupted after the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu denied space for the veteran leader’s burial at Chennai’s Marina beach where several TN bigwigs like MG Ramachandran, former Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa and DMK founder Annadurai have been laid to rest.

DMK working president and Karunanidhi’s son MK Stalin held discussion with Chief Minister Palaniswami over the issue and had also presented a memorandum to him, seeking permission to bury Karunanidhi near the Anna Memorial at Marina beach. However,  the state government did not agree and allotted a burial spot near the Gandhi Mandapam in Chennai.  The Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary said that the request could not be sanctioned owing to legal issues at Marina Beach. Following the denial, the DMK decided to move the Madras High Court for an urgent hearing as it was not happy with the land allotted on Sardar Patel Road near the memorials of Rajaji and K. Kamaraj.

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.

Week-long mourning

The state government has declared a state-wide holiday on Wednesday, apart from a seven-day mourning. Schools and colleges across the state would also remain closed on Wednesday. All the government functions and cinema shows in Tamil Nadu which were scheduled on August 7 and August 8 were also cancelled.

Tributes pour in

National leaders condoled the death of Karunanidhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi announcing they would attend his last rites in Chennai on Wednesday. President Ram Nath Kovind and prominent leaders cutting across party lines, like PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed grief over Karunanidhi’s passing away.

“Extremely sad… A doyen of our public life, as a contributor to the development of Tamil Nadu and of India he has few peers. Our country is poorer today. My condolences to his family and millions of well-wishers,” President Kovind wrote on Twitter.

In a series of tweets, PM Modi 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 marginalized. Kalaignar Karunanidhi stood for regional aspirations as well as national progress. He was steadfastly committed to the welfare of Tamils and ensured that Tamil Nadu’s voice was effectively heard.”

Rahul Gandhi said India lost a great son, who strode the stage of Tamil politics like a colossus for over six decades. “In his passing, India has lost a great son. My condolences to his family as also to the millions of Indians who grieve for their beloved leader,” he said.

Former president Pranab Mukherjee said Karunanidhi will be deeply missed. “Sixty years a legislator, five times CM and a pillar of many coalitions at the Centre, he influenced his state’s and the national politics like few others. My deepest condolences to his family and admirers,” Mukherjee tweeted.

BJP President Amit Shah said no one can forget his struggle during the Emergency. Among other national leaders, Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury also condoled the death of the DMK stalwart.

U.S. Ambassador to India Ken Juster also extended his condolences for the DMK patriarch. “On behalf of the United States Mission in India, I wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of former chief minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi and the people of Tamil Nadu. He will be remembered for his years of public service to his state and the country at large,” Juster tweeted.

About Kalaignar Karunanidhi: 

Best known as the political rival to J Jayalalithaa, Muthuvel Karunanidhi was a man with several feathers in his cap. A heavyweight of the Dravidian politics, he served Tamil Nadu five times as its Chief Minister. Born on June 3, 1924, in Nagapattinam district of erstwhile Madras Presidency, Karunanidhi was an admirer of activist Periyar whose socialist ideology became the bedrock of his political ground.

Three years before India’s Independence, Periyar formed the Dravidar Kazhagham movement. When this split up in 1949, Karunanidhi sided with Annadurai, and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) was born. There was no looking back since for Karunanidhi, who won election after election, beginning 1957.