Chennai:Grief swept over Tamil Nadu and tensions rose as news broke Tuesday evening that M. Karunanidhi, legendary Dravidian leader and former chief minister of Tamil Nadu was no more. Many party workers broke down, while some raised slogans in praise of their leader.

Chennai’s Kauvery Hospital, where Karunanidhi has been undergoing treatment since 28 July, announced late evening that the 94-year-old political stalwart, president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), had died at 6.10pm.

“With deep anguish, we announce the demise of our beloved Kalaignar Dr M. Karunanidhi on 7. 8. 2018 at 6.10 pm. Despite the best possible efforts by our team of doctors and nurses to resuscitate him, he failed to respond," said a statement from the hospital. “We profoundly mourn the loss of one of the tallest leaders of India and we share the grief of the family members and fellow Tamilians worldwide," it added.

Karunanidhi’s death marks the end of an 80-year long illustrious political career, leaving behind a huge Dravidian legacy.

The Tamil Nadu government announced a seven-day mourning period and a public holiday on Wednesday to mark the demise of the five-time chief minister.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) supporters gather outside Kauvery Hospital where DMK chief M. Karunanidhi is being treated, in Chennai. Photo: PTI
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) supporters gather outside Kauvery Hospital where DMK chief M. Karunanidhi is being treated, in Chennai. Photo: PTI

The neighbouring Union territory of Puducherry declared a public holiday on Wednesday and a three-day mourning.

Thousands of party workers and followers from all over the state have been camping in Chennai over past few days, waiting for news on Karunanidhi’s health.

Meanwhile, tensions rose after the Tamil Nadu government, led by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), citing legal issues rejected a proposal by Karunanidhi’s family members for his burial at Marina beach near the memorial of C.N. Annadurai, the state’s first chief minister. Tamil Nadu chief secretary Girija Vaidhyanatha issued a statement saying the government was willing to provide two acres of land near Gandhi Mandapam in Adyar.

Karunanidhi’s son and DMK working president M.K. Stalin appealed to the state government to change its mind, while the DMK moved the Madras high court for permission. Acting chief justice Huluvadi G. Ramesh is expected to hear the plea later in the night.

Political leaders Vaiko and Thol Thirumavalavan condemned the state government for not providing space at Marina beach, while DMK cadres outside the Kauvery Hospital raised slogans in support of the demand.

The late Dravidian leader’s mortal remains will be kept at Rajaji hall in Chennai on Wednesday with full state honours.

“The national flag will be flown in half mast, the mortal remains will be covered with the flag and full honours will be done. All government functions will stand cancelled," a statement from Tamil Nadu government said.

Political leaders across the country conveyed their condolences. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi will reach Chennai on Wednesday to pay their last respects to the DMK leader.

On Tuesday evening, Tamil Nadu director general of police T.K. Rajendran directed police officials to stay on high alert. Security was tightened across the state and traffic remained diverted for the second day near the Kauvery Hospital as DMK cadres crowded outside.

Karunanidhi, who fell ill in October 2016 following a drug-induced allergy, underwent tracheostomy—a procedure that helped overcome his breathing difficulties—in December 2016. His health worsened over the past month, and he was being treated for fever due to a urinary tract infection at his residence in Gopalapuram, Chennai. Following a drop in his blood pressure levels, Karunanidhi was hospitalized in the wee hours of 28 July.

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