In the passing of DMK president Muthuvel Karunanidhi at the age of 94 after a prolonged illness. Tamil Nadu has lost one of the tallest leaders of the Dravidian movement and the nation a veteran politician who broght regional parties to the national stage to usher in a coalition era and thereby realised his long-term goal of federelism at the Center and autonomy at the state-level.
In a public life spanning over seven decades, Karunanidhi dominated the political scene in Tamil Nadu. He served as chief minister for five terms, though only some lasted the full term. If Kamaraj was acclaimed as the cleanest leader the country had seen who had an unbroken stint of nine years as chief minister, DMK founder CN Annadurai had the record of having brought the party to power in the third election it faced in 1967.
But Annadurai remained chief minister only for a year as he died in February 1969 after bringing the Congress rule in the state to an end in 1967. Karunanidhi, who succeeded Annadurai and pipped senior rivals to the post, took over the leadership of the party on 26 July, 1969. And Karunanidhi’s health turned critical as his leadership of the party entered the 50th year.
The DMK enjoyed power at the Centre from 1999 to 2004 when Karunanidhi pulled out his party to gp with Sonia as part of the UPA, which ruled for ten years from 2004. Such was his clout with Sonia that he refused to share power with the Congress at the state level, though he led a minority government from 2006-2011.
Politics apart, Karunanidhi was credited with social reforms he brought about such as reservation for the Other Backward Classes, equal share in property for women and enactment of a law to make men from all castes priests in Hindu temples.
In theultimate analysis Karunanidhi was the kind of man you could hate or love, but could not ignore.