An unfortunate political controversy broke out on Tuesday mere hours after the demise of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi at Chennai's Kauvery Hospital, as the Edappadi Palaniswami-led state government accorded area for the longtime DMK supremo's mortal remains to be buried at the Gandhi Mandapam in Chennai rather than at Marina beach.
Even as the central government announced that Karunanidhi would receive a state funeral in Chennai on Wednesday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi also set to fly to Tamil Nadu's capital, the DMK issued a strong protest against the state government decision on Karunanidhi's final resting place, and went on to receive the backing of a number of Opposition parties.
Both locations serve as the final resting place of significant leaders in the history of Tamil Nadu.
The Gandhi Mandapam, where two acres have been allotted for five-time CM Karunanidhi, is also where former Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers K Kamaraj and M Bhaktavatsalam were laid to rest, as was C Rajagopalachari, who was one of India's tallest leaders in the years after independence, serving as the last Governor-General of India and the second Chief Minister of Madras (which later became Tamil Nadu)
The Gandhi Mandapam is located at the Sardar Patel Road in Chennai's Adyar, next to IIT Madras and opposite Anna University -- two of India's most prestigious engineering colleges.
The Anna Memorial, meanwhile, is located at Chennai's famous Marina beach, opposite the University of Madras and the Presidency College -- among India's oldest institutes of higher education.
Built following the death of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister CN Annadurai (a mentor of Karunanidhi and his direct predecessor of ) who was cremated there in 1969, the Anna Memorial is also just as well known for the adjacent MGR Memorial, where two of Karunanidhi's former rivals, MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa, both former Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu, were interred.
One unifying ideological factor that differentiates the Anna Memorial from the Gandhi Mandapam is the fact that the leaders who were laid to rest at the Anna Memorial were prominent in their roles in the Dravidian movement, something in which Karunanidhi also played a vital role.
Following the Tamil Nadu government allotting two acres of land at the Gandhi Mandapam for the burial, the DMK has issued two letters and a number of statements, all of which cite aspects of Karunanidhi's contributions and service to the state over his almost 80-year-long career in politics and social work and the fact that he was Chief Minister on five occasions. With the government unrelenting, the DMK moved the High Court in the matter, with the Madras High Court's acting Chief Justice admitting it for hearing at 10:30 pm.
A number of politicians and parties have backed the DMK in its request for the burial to take place at Marina beach's Anna Memorial, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who said she would appeal to her Tamil Nadu counterpart personally, as well as Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury.