Thiruvananthapuram: K Karunakaran, veteran Congress leader and four times chief minister of Kerala, died at 5.30 pm at Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday. He was 93. For a year in 1995, he was Union industry ministry in PV Narasimha’s cabinet.
Karunakaran who entered politics as part of the freedom struggle, was hospitalized at the Ananthapuri Hospital on 10 December, following ailments. Though his condition appeared to improve, things took a turn for the worse on Wednesday and he met his end on Thursday evening.
Close to the Nehru family since India’s freedom struggle, he was first elected chief minister in 1977 but had to quit office a month later after adverse remarks by the Kerala high court in a case regarding police torture during Emergency when he was state home minister. He came back as chief minister in December 1981 but had to quit in March 1982 after one of the constituents of the front withdrew support. In the mid-term elections that followed, he was re-elected chief minister and stayed in power till 1987. In 1991 he took charge again but had to resign four years later to let AK Antony, now Union defence minister, assume office.
Since then his attempts to gain control over the party in Kerala did not meet with success and with his son K Muraleedharan he formed the Kerala National Congress (Indira) in 2005 and later merged it with the Nationalist Congress Party. However, while his son stayed with the party, he with his daughter Padmaja Venugopal rejoined the Congress. Called ‘Leader’, Karunakaran had faced charges of nepotism and had been trying for sometime to get his son back to the Congress. The present case before the Supreme Court involving PJ Thomas, Central Vigilance Commissioner, in the pamolein import case as food and civil supplies secretary in 1991-92 was during the tenure of Karunakaran as chief minister.
He was elected to the Kerala assembly seven times, thrice to Rajya Sabha and twice to Lok Sabha.