Thursday, June 3, 2010

Karunanidhi, veteran of Indian politics, turns 87

DMK leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, one of India's most senior politicians, turned 87 Thursday.

A key prop of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Karunanidhi began the day by cutting a birthday cake at his residence in Gopalapuram area here as close aides and family members cheered him.

A day earlier, he had formally handed over his house to a trust with a request that the property should be converted into a hospital after he and his wife Dayalu Ammal die.

From his home, Karunanidhi went to the memorials of DMK founder and former chief minister C.N. Annadurai as well as E.V.K. Periyar, who founded the Dravida Kazhagam, from which the DMK emerged.

At the memorials, he released white doves. The chief minister also visited the DMK headquarters here where a large number of party members and other leaders greeted him and presented him a shawl as a token of gift.

Leaders of various political parties conveyed their greetings to Karunanidhi, who has been chief minister of Tamil Nadu five times and has won all the assembly elections he fought since 1957.

Although a regional satrap, Karunanidhi has played a larger national role as India began experimenting with coalition governments from 1989.

His eldest son M.K. Azhagiri is the minister for chemicals and fertilisers in the Manmohan Singh government. Younger son M.K. Stalin is the deputy chief minister and daughter K. Kanimozhi a Rajya Sabha MP.

His grandnephew, Dayanidhi Maran, is the minister for textiles in the central cabinet. Karunanidhi entered politics as a student activist at the age of 14. He is also a well known playwright and screenwriter in Tamil cinema, and has authored dozens of books and plays.

He took charge of the DMK after Annadurai's death in 1969. Although the party has lost influence in recent years in Tamil Nadu, it remains a force to reckon with.


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