Muthuvel Karunanidhi was one of the most prominent politicians in the country. Kalaignar, as he was fondly known as, served as Tamil Nadu CM for numerous years, on the Opposition for just as many, and had an influence in the state which few other leaders can match up to. He had been active in politics since 1957, and won 13 straight assembly elections, including to the Tiruvarur seat in 2016.
But life wasn't easy from the onset for Kalaignar. He was one of the rare leaders who made it big without having a political background. Karunanidhi made his name as an acclaimed screenwriter in his early days, before making it big in politics. He served as the Chief Minister of the state on five different occasions before his demise on August 7.
Let's take a look at his journey from an actor to a reputed leader to his demise.
Karunanidhi was born in Thirukkuvalai village in Nagapattinam district in 1924. He entered politics at the tender age of 14, when he joined the Anti-Hindi protests. He founded and led a student organization named Tamil Nadu Tamil Manavar Mandram, which was the student wing of the Dravidian movement. It was during this time that he started a newspaper named Murasoli, which became the official newspaper of DMK.
In terms of films, he started off as a screenwriter in 1947 with the film Raajkumari, which was directed by MG Ramachandran. From 1947 to 1952, he wrote scripts for four films.
The year 1952 saw Karunanidhi become big in the film industry. He wrote the screenplay and dialogues for the film Parasakthi, which supported the Dravidian movement. It became a huge hit and made 'Kalaignar' a big name in the industry. It was followed by another similar film named Panam in the same year, which again did well and further enhanced his reputation. From 1952 to 1957, he was part of 10 films as screenwriter.
Kalaignar decided to enter the political fray of Tamil Nadu by contesting the elections in 1957. He fought against K. A. Dharmalingam of Indian National Congress and beat him to win the Kulithalai seat. Four years later, he was appointed as the treasurer of DMK.
In the 1962 elections, Karunanidhi contested from Thanjavur, and defeated A. Y. S. Parisutha Nadar of Congress. His stature grew from the win, so much so that the party made him the deputy leader of opposition in the state assembly.
He kept on rising within the DMK ranks and continued on his political success by winning the Saidapet seat in 1967. For the first time, he was given a portfolio, as his party made him the Minister for Public Works.
In 1969, the then CM Annadurai expired, Karunanidhi assumed the Chief Minister's seat for the first time, and also became the leader of the party. His popularity amongst the public was sufficient that when the elections were held in 1971, he again came back to power, retaining his seat from Saidapet.
He was the CM of Tamil Nadu when Emergency was imposed in the country in 1975. Karunanidhi was one of the few who dared to oppose the decision of the then PM Indira Gandhi. It meant many of his party leaders were put behind the bars during this period.
When the elections took place in 1977, the DMK was overthrown by Karunanidhi's one-time-friend MG Ramachandran's ADMK. For 13 years, Kalaignar and his party were out of power and were under the shadows of ADMK. But in 1987, Ramachandran expired, and it paved way for Karunanidhi's return.
DMK returned to power in Tamil Nadu two years after MGR passed away. As expected, Karunanidhi was handed his fourth term as the CM of the state. But two years into it, his party was dismissed by the central government on accusations of degrading Law and Order situation in the state. In 1991, a new rival emerged as Jayalalitha took control o the ADMK and became Chief Minister, holding the post for a full term
Subsequent elections turned out to be topsy turvy. ADMK had won the '91 elections by a massive majority. But in 1996, DMK and Karunanidhi won in 221 seats out of the 234. After five years, it was the turn of Jayalalitha to strike back, as ADMK won the 2001 elections.
Kalaignar tasted his final success in 2006, when DMK won and he became the CM of the state for an astonishing fifth time, leaving behind a political legacy which cannot be matched.