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K. Karunakaran passes away

Special Correspondent

Funeral will take place in Thrissur tomorrow

— Photo: S. Gopakumar

Last journey:Congress leader K. Karunakaran's body kept at his residence at Nanthencode in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.

Thiruvananthapuram: The former Chief Minister of Kerala and veteran Congress leader K. Karunakaran died at a private hospital here on Thursday evening. He was 93 and is survived by daughter Padmaja Venugopal and son K Muraleedharan.

Mr. Karunakaran was admitted to the Ananthapuri Hospital and Research Centre on December 10 for respiratory problems and fever. His condition worsened following a stroke on Wednesday and was on ventilator since then. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala, who announced the veteran's death at 5.30 p.m., said the funeral would take place in Thrissur on Saturday.

The Congress has announced a seven-day mourning. Mr. Karunakaran was Chief Minister of Kerala for four terms and was the undisputed leader of the Congress in Kerala for decades. He was quite active politically till the very end, making a few political appearances even after a series of hospitalisation during the last one year. His wife, Kalyanikutty Amma died 15 years ago.

Born on July 5, 1918 at Chirackal in Kannur to Kannoth Ramunni Marar and Kannoth Kalyani Marasiyar, he studied in Raja's High School and did his diploma in Design, Geometry and Painting from College of Arts, Thrissur, which became his political Karma bhoomi, with Mala his political constituency. He joined the Freedom Struggle at a very young age and was one of the founders of the Indian National Trade Union Congress in Kerala. He began his electoral innings as a member of the Cochin Legislative Assembly in 1948. He also represented the Travancore-Cochin Legislative Assembly in 1949, 1952 and 1954. He was Home Minister in the C Achutha Menon Ministry from 1971-77. He took over as Chief Minister in 1977, but had to resign a month later following an adverse court reference in the infamous Rajan case. He came back into reckoning in 1982, when he patched up with his arch rival A K Antony to begin his second term.

Mr. Karunakaran was a staunch supporter of the Nehru-Gandhi family and drew his political strength from his close association with Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. His daughter, Padmaja Venugopal is currently an executive committee member of the KPCC, while his son, K Muraleedharan is a former KPCC president who quit the party and has been knocking on the Congress door for a re-entry.

As far as the Congress party in Kerala is concerned, Mr. Karunakaran built it up from scratch, navigating it through the various national level splits that the party went through.

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