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Indian politician who has served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, India on five separate occasions
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Indian politician who has served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, India on five separate occasions
A.K.A. Muthuvel Karunanidhi
Was Politician Screenwriter Author Journalist Writer Film producer Poet
From India
Type Film, TV, Stage & Radio Journalism Literature Politics
Gender male
Birth 3 June 1924, Thirukkuvalai, India
Death 7 August 2018, kauvery hospital (aged 94 years)
Star sign Gemini
Residence Gopalapuram, Chennai, India
Politics Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Children: M. K. StalinM. K. AlagiriKanimozhiM. K. Muthu
The details (from wikipedia)


Muthuvel Karunanidhi (3 June 1924 – 7 August 2018) was an Indian writer and politician who served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for almost two decades over five terms between 1969 and 2011. He had the longest tenure as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu with 6,863 days in office. He was also a long-standing leader of the Dravidian movement and ten-time president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam political party. Before entering politics, he worked in the Tamil film industry as a screenwriter. He also made contributions to Tamil literature, having written stories, plays, novels, and a multiple-volume memoir. He was popularly referred to as "Kalaignar" (Artist) and "Mutthamizharignar" (Tamil Scholar) for his contributions to Tamil literature.

Karunanidhi died on 7 August 2018 at Kauvery Hospital in Chennai after prolonged, age-related illness.

Early life and family

Karunanidhi was born on 3 June 1924, in the village of Thirukkuvalai in Nagapattinam district, Madras Presidency, to Ayyadurai (Grand father) Muthuvel and Anjugam. He had two elder sisters, Periyanayaki and Shanmugasundari. There was some misconception that his birth name was Dhakshinamoorthy, later changed to Karunanidhi as influenced by Dravidian and rationalist movements, Karunanidhi himself stated that C.N. Annadurai asked him to keep his birthname "Karunanidhi", since it is already popular among the people. In his own writings Karunanidhi said that his family were of the Devadasi (renamed as Isai Vellalar) caste, a small community that traditionally played musical instruments at ceremonial occasions

As recalled in the first volume of his biography Nenjukku Needhi, during his childhood Karunanidhi was more interested in music, writing and activism than schoolwork. He also recollects experiencing and revolting against caste-based discrimination during this period. His initial schooling was in Thirukkuvalai and then in 1936 he shifted to a high school in Tiruvarur. As a teenager he was captivated by the political writings of Tamil leaders including Panagal Arasar, Periyar and Pattukottai Azhagirisamy (after whom Karunanidhi later named one of his sons). Karunanidhi joined the anti-Hindi protests sparked by the provincial government's legislation making Hindi-education mandatory in schools, and in 1938 organised a group of boys to hold demonstrations travelling around Tiruvarur on a cycle rickshaw. The law was rescinded in 1939. The taste for activism however stuck and in the ensuing years, after a brief flirtation with Communism, Karunanidhi started following the work and speeches of leaders of Justice Party, Self-Respect Movement and Dravidar Kazhagam. He ignored schooling and dropped-out after failing three-times in the final year.

Karunanidhi started his first magazine, at age 15, called Manava Nesan (Friends of Students), which was hand-written and distributed. It was soon followed by the establishment of Murasoli (Drum Roll). He expanded into writing plays propagating Dravidian ideology, and at age 20 starting writing and performing in plays for the Dravid Nadigar Kazhagam (Dravidian Actor's Group) professionally.

Personal life

Karunanidhi married three times. His first marriage was to Padmavathi in September 1944, and they had a son M. K. Muthu, who was briefly active in Tamil films and politics. Padmavathi died in 1948 soon after childbirth. In September of that year, Karunanidhi's marriage was arranged with Dayalu Ammal, with whom he had three sons, M. K. Alagiri, M. K. Stalin and 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 began his career as a screenwriter in the Tamil film industry. His first movie as screenwriter 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. Ramachandran and V. N. Janaki.

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 be a blockbuster hit. Later T. R. Sundaram had Karunanidhi on permanent rolls at Modern Studio.


His most notable movie was Parasakthi, 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 criticised Hinduism.

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. 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 dialogues.

Writing and narration style

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.


Karunanidhi (middle) with actor Sivaji Ganesan (left)

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 language through art and architecture. Like the Kuraloviyam, in which Kalaignar wrote about Thirukkural, through the construction of Valluvar Kottam he gave an architectural presence to Thiruvalluvar, in Chennai. At Kanyakumari, Karunanidhi constructed a 133-foot-high statue of Thiruvalluvar in honour of the scholar.


The books written by Karunanidhi include Sanga Thamizh, Thirukkural Urai, Ponnar Sankar, Romapuri Pandian, Thenpandi Singam, Vellikizhamai, Nenjukku Needhi, Iniyavai Irubathu and Kuraloviam. His books of prose and poetry number more than 100.

Stage plays

Karunanidhi's stage plays include: Manimagudam, Ore Ratham, Palaniappan, Thooku Medai, Kagithapoo, Naane Arivali, Vellikizhamai, Udhayasooriyan and Silappathikaram.


Entry into politics

Karunanidhi entered politics at the age of 14, inspired by a speech by Alagirisamy 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 died 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, the DMK was the only ruling party across India that opposed the Emergency, for which his government was summarily dismissed by Indira Gandhi's government and many of his party leaders were arrested and jailed till the Emergency was lifted. Later, the D.M.K teamed up with the Janata Party post-Emergency, but suffered defeat at the 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 a few years earlier, would come to power in Tamil Nadu. The DMK then suffered multiple electoral defeats against his primary opponent M.G.Ramachandran's AIADMK, until the latter's death in 1987.

The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Karunanidhi meeting the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia to finalise plan for the financial year, in New Delhi on 6 June 2006

80's & 90's

Karunanidhi had a brief stint as Chief Minister in the late 1980s, during which his government was dismissed by the Central government on accusations of degrading the law and order situation in the state after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. He later again became the CM of Tamil Nadu in 1996 following a sweeping electoral win in the preceding elections. Following a five-year rule, his party again lost at the elections to J. Jayalalithaa's AIADMK in 2001.


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.

He currently 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.

'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

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paying tribute to Karunanidhi in Rajaji Hall

Karunanidhi was in poor health from October 2016 and minimised 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 flew 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.

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.
  • 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, the Tamil Nadu Muslim Makkal Katchi announced that it would confer the title "Friend of the Muslim Community" (Yaaran-E-Millath) upon M. Karunanidhi.


He has 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 is this Ram? 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 the head of any other religion; chances are he may not."

Connections with LTTE

In an April 2009 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". An interim report of Justice Jain Commission, which oversaw the investigation into Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, had indicted Karunanidhi for abetting Rajiv Gandhi's murderers, who belonged to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). but the final report contained no such allegations.

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) 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 Lok 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. He resigned immediately after being elected in 1991, due to the routing of his party (only 2 seats out of 234).

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 31.0
1980 Anna Nagar Won 49.0 H.V. Hande ADMK 48.3
Not Contested
1989 Harbour Won 59.8 K.A. Wahab Muslim League 13.8
1991 Harbour Won 48.7 K. Suppu ADMK 47.3
1996 Chepauk Won 77.1 N.S. Nellai Kannan INC 17.2
2001 Chepauk Won 51.9 R. Damodharan INC 43.5
2006 Chepauk Won 51.0 Dawood Miah Khan Independent 38.3
2011 Thiruvarur Won 62.9 M. Rajendran ADMK 33.9
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
Fourth Assembly 1967 1969 State Minister for Public Works 138/233
Fourth Assembly 10 February 1969 5 January 1971 Chief Minister (1) 136/233
Fifth Assembly 15 March 1971 31 January 1976 Chief Minister (2) 182/203
Sixth Assembly 25 July 1977 17 February 1980 Leader of the Opposition (1) 48/230
Seventh Assembly 27 June 1980 18 August 1983 Leader of the Opposition (2) 37/112
Ninth Assembly 27 January 1989 30 January 1991 Chief Minister (3) 150/202
Tenth Assembly 26 April 1991 30 March 1996 Member of Legislative Assembly 2/176
Eleventh Assembly 13 May 1996 14 May 2001 Chief Minister (4) 173/182
Thirteenth Assembly 13 May 2006 14 May 2011 Chief Minister (5) 96/132
Fourteenth Assembly 16 May 2011 19 May 2016 Member of Legislative Assembly 23/124
Fifteenth Assembly 19 May 2016 7 August 2018 (died) Member of Legislative Assembly 89/176
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 30 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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