Karunanidhi timeline

Milestones in a long journey

Print edition : August 31, 2018

1959: C.N. Annadurai presenting a gold ring to Karunanidhi after the DMK won 45 seats in the Madras Municipal Corporation elections. Karunanidhi was in charge of the election campaign. Photo: The Hindu Archives

1941-42: A group photograph from his schooldays when he was studying in Form V. Karunanidhi is seen standing at extreme right. Photo: By Special Arrangement

Karunanidhi’s mother (centre) with (standing, back row from left) Murasoli Maran, Murasoli Selvam, Amirtham and (front row, from left) Karunanidhi’s children M.K. Muthu, M.K. Selvi, M.K. Tamilarasu, M.K. Stalin and M.K. Alagiri. Photo: photograph courtesy kalaignar karuvoolam

1953: Karunanidhi and four other DMK leaders lying prostrate across the railway track near the Kallakudi railway station as part of the rail roko to protest against changing the name of the station from Kallakudi to Dalmiapuram. Photo: By Special Arrangement

With K. Kamaraj and Periyar. Photo: The Hindu Archives

The major events in M. Karunanidhi’s political life.

NOT many politicians in India can claim that they have led a great life. But Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi could do so. He told this reporter once: “I have led a ‘peru vazhvu’ [very great life]. I have mixed with great leaders such as [E.V. Ramasamy] Periyar, Annadurai, Rajaji, Kamaraj, Indira Gandhi and V.P. Singh.” And he made this statement with total modesty, never once alluding to how he himself was a multifaceted man: politician, administrator, orator, playwright, story and dialogue writer for Tamil films, scholar in Tamil literature, journalist and a connoisseur of music.

 Here is a list of important events that defined Karunanidhi’s life.

June 3, 1924: Born at Thirukkuvalai village, in the then composite Thanjavur district but now in Nagapattinam district. His parents had originally named him Dakshinamoorthy, but he later changed it to Karunanidhi. He had two elder sisters, Perianayagam and Shanmugasundaram. He had his initial education in a primary school in Thirukkuvalai. As Karunanidhi noted once, he belonged to a family that was financially comfortable enough to send him to study in the Board High School in Tiruvarur town, 25 km from Thirukkuvalai.

With his parents Muthuvelar and Anjugam.   -  Courtesy Kalaignar Karuvoolam

1937-38: At the age of 13, when Karunanidhi was still a schoolboy, he writes his first historical novel, titled Selvachandira, in Tamil. The very first sentence in the novel begins with the exhortation: “Tamil Vazhga, Tamizhar Vazhga” (Long live Tamil, Long live Tamilians), giving an insight into how passionate he was about the Tamil language and the welfare of Tamilians even at the age of 13. 

He begins his “Preface” to the novel thus: “The present-day Dravida Nadu has lost its arts and civilisation and is struggling to survive, having been ensnared in the web of castes and several superstitions. In this situation, conspiracies are under way to destroy Tamil, which is the finest language among the Dravidian languages of Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Tulu, and so it is time for the Dravidians to wake up. Most of the Dravidians have risen with vigour and they have girded their loins to protect the [Dravida] Nadu and its culture and civilisation....” There were no mistakes in the spelling, grammar and syntax of what he wrote.

A handwritten page from the historical novel that Karunanidhi wrote when he was 13.   -  Courtesy Kalaignar Karuvoolam

1938: From the age of 14, Karunanidhi takes part in the anti-Hindi agitation, which signals his entry into public life. He engages in politics, championing the cause of Dravida Nadu and social justice.

1942: Karunanidhi begins editing and publishing Murasoli (The Sound of the Drum) as a monthly.

1942: Karunanidhi meets C.N. Annadurai for the first time, in Tiruvarur.

Karunanidhi describes, in an article he wrote in Tamil in a special Murasoli volume dated September 15, 1995, how he met Annadurai for the first time in Tiruvarur: “The very second issue of a weekly magazine called ‘Dravida Nadu’, which Anna began to bring out from Kancheepuram, published my article titled ‘Ilamai Bali’ [The Youthful Sacrifice]. After it was published, I had written a short story called ‘Pagutharivu Paramasivam’ [Paramasivam, the rationalist] and posted it to ‘Dravida Nadu’. Anna had come to Tiruvarur that week. He told T.N. Raman, one of the leaders of the Dravidian movement from Tiruvarur, that there was a boy called Karunanidhi in Tiruvarur. ‘Fetch him,’ Anna told Raman. When I went with Raman, Anna looked at me and asked in astonishment, ‘Is this youngster Karunanidhi?’ He then told me, ‘You write well. Yet, I am not going to publish your short story ‘Pagutharivu Paramasivam’. For you should study well, earn a degree from college and write afterwards.”

1944: The Justice Party is renamed Dravidar Kazhagam at its Salem conference. Annadurai is the rising star in the D.K.

With first wife, Padmavathy.   -  By Special Arrangement

September 13, 1944: Karunanidhi marries Padmavathy. A son is born to them. He is named M.K. Muthu. Padmavathy dies in 1948.

1947: Karunanidhi’s film career begins in 1947 with him writing the dialogue for the film Rajakumari, produced by Jupiter Films, Coimbatore. T.R. Sundaram, proprietor, Modern Theatres, Salem, wants to produce Karunanidhi’s play Manthiri Kumari into a film, and Karunanidhi writes the screenplay and the dialogue for the film version.

September 15, 1948: Karunanidhi marries Dayalu Ammal. Four children are born to them. They are M.K. Azhagiri, M.K. Stalin, M.K. Selvi and M.K. Tamilarasu.

September 17, 1949: A group of D.K. dissidents led by Annadurai forms the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). The executive committee members of the D.K. meet in Madras (now Chennai) under the chairmanship of K.K. Neelamegam, a senior member. They are upset with the “autocratic” way of functioning of Periyar. In that meeting, Annadurai reads out a prepared statement, which results in the birth of a new organisation called the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

What precipitates the parting of ways was that Periyar, then 71 years old, wanted to marry Maniyammai, who was 26. Besides, Periyar wanted to make her his personal and political heir.

P.C. Ganesan, a biographer of Annadurai, says: “So the breakaway of Anna and his followers from Periyar was a historic necessity since the rapid growth of the Dravidian Movement demanded a more imaginative leadership. Periyar’s marriage with Maniyammai provided a psychologically favourable climate to bring about this change.”

With his wife, Dayalu Ammal, and daughter M.K. Selvi, paying paying homage to his father in Tiruvarur.   -  S.R. Raghunathan

September 18, 1949: “A public meeting of the Dravidian Movement to discuss the future plans and functioning of Dravidam” is held at Robinson Park, Royapettah, Madras. Petthampalayam Pazhaniswamy presides and K. Govindaswamy is the meeting’s convener. The speakers include Annadurai, A.V.P. Asaithambi, Neelamegam, E.V.K. Sampath, K. Anbazhagan, Karunanidhi, N.V. Natarajan, Sathyavani Muthu, the poet Bharathidasan and E.V.R. Vallimuthu. The public meeting signals the birth of the DMK.

July 15, 1953: The DMK chooses Karunanidhi to lead an agitation against the renaming of a railway station called Kallakudi into Dalmiapuram. Kallakkudi was a village in Tiruchi district where the industrialist Ramakrishna Dalmia had set up a cement-manufacturing plant, and the Centre had decided to rename the station after him. The Centre’s decision presents a big opportunity to the DMK to highlight what it called “the north Indian hegemony” in the Indian Union and the Centre’s contempt for Tamil. The DMK decides on a “rail roko” at Kallakudi. Karunanidhi first climbs on the shoulders of his party cadres and sticks a poster with the name “Kallakkudi” written in Tamil over the “Dalmiapuram” nameboard at the station. Then, Karunanidhi and four other DMK leaders lie prostrate across the railway track near the station. The police arrest them. On July 17, 1953, a court convicts and sentences Karunanidhi and others to five months’ rigorous imprisonment. They are lodged in the Ariyalur prison. Annadurai is also arrested and imprisoned. Protests break out over the imprisonment of the DMK leaders.

In the same year, Karunanidhi is seriously injured in his left eye when the car in which he is travelling meets with an accident near Tirupattur. A surgery is done on the eye, and from then on, he starts wearing his trade-mark powered dark glasses. He suffers another injury on the left eye.

(Sitting, from left) Kavignar Kannadasan, M. Karunanidhi, Kavimani Desiga Vinayagam Pillai, Panmozhi Pulavar K.A. Appadurai and K.A. Mathiazhagan. Standing, at the centre in the back row, is Kalaivanar N.S. Krishnan.   -  Courtesy Kalaignar Karuvoolam

May 1956: During the DMK’s State-level conference held from May 16 to 19 in Tiruchi, it is decided that instead of remaining a mere social reformist organisation the DMK should contest the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections to be held in 1957. Annadurai asks those present at the conference to decide whether the DMK should contest the elections or not. The overwhelming response is that it should get into the electoral ring. Annadurai announces that the DMK will field its candidates against the Congress in the 1957 elections.

March 31, 1957: When elections are held to the Tamil Nadu Assembly and the Lok Sabha, Karunanidhi is the DMK candidate for the Kulithalai Assembly constituency in Tiruchi district, and he defeats K.A. Dharmalingam of the Congress. Thus, 1957 marks the entry of Karunanidhi into the Assembly as a legislator for the first time. Karunanidhi said: “Till then, if I had considered myself a volunteer spreading political awareness, my getting elected as a legislator transformed me into a politician.” In his maiden speech in the House on May 4, he speaks on the shabby treatment that farmhands receive in Nangavaram in Tiruchi district. 

Beginning with his victory at Kulithalai in 1957, Karunanidhi is elected to the Assembly 13 consecutive times from seven different constituencies, including Tiruvarur his hometown in the 2011 and 2016 Assembly elections. (He never lost an election to the Legislative Assembly.)

Others from the DMK who are elected to the Assembly in 1957 include Anbazhagan, Asaithambi, P.U. Shanmugham, A. Govindaswamy and Sathyavani Muthu.

1959: The DMK decides to field its candidates to the Madras Municipal Corporation elections. Karunanidhi is in charge of the election campaign for the DMK, which fields its candidates in 90 out of 100 wards. When Annadurai asks Karunanidhi how many out of the 90 will get elected, Karunanidhi is sure that more than 40 will win. (“Anna went to the extent of keeping a bet with me that if more than 40 DMK candidates get elected, he would present me with a gold ring bought from his own funds. When the results were announced, 45 DMK candidates had won,” Karunanidhi said later.) A.P. Arasu of the DMK is elected Mayor. A joyous Anna presents a gold ring to Karunanidhi at a public meeting held to celebrate the party’s success. (When this reporter met Karunanidhi in 1987 for an interview at his residence in Gopalapuram, Chennai, he proudly pointed to the ring that he wore on his right hand. He then became emotional and declared: “Anna put this ring on my finger. I have never removed it. I will never, never remove it.”)

September 25, 1960: In the organisational elections held in the DMK, Annadurai is elected the party’s general secretary, Karunanidhi the treasurer and V.R. Nedunchezhiyan the presidium chairman.

1962: Karunanidhi becomes a legislator for the second time when he is elected from the Thanjavur constituency in the February 21, 1962, Assembly elections. He defeats A.Y.S. Parisutha Nadar of the Congress.

February 1965: With the Centre announcing that Hindi alone will be made the official language as provided in the Constitution, which is at variance with the assurance given by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to the non-Hindi speaking States, there is a groundswell of anger in Tamil Nadu. The DMK exploits this upsurge and announces that it will observe Republic Day on January 26, 1965, as a day of mourning. Violent students’ agitations break out all over Tamil Nadu. Mobs set fire to train coaches near the Perambur railway station in Chennai. The police open fire in many places. Policemen are attacked and killed. Many youths set themselves on fire, protesting against the Hindi imposition.

Karunanidhi, who leads the DMK’s agitation against Hindi, is arrested on February 16 under Section 30(1) of the Defence of India Rules. He is charged with instigating students to take to violence and sentenced to six months’ rigorous imprisonment. He is lodged in the Central Prison, Palayamkottai. “February 16, 1965, is one of the turning points in my life,” Karunanidhi later remarked.

With Rajathi Ammal and daughter Kanimozhi.   -  By Special Arrangement

1966: Karunanidhi marries Rajathi. (They have a daughter, Kanimozhi, who is a Rajya Sabha member.)

December 30 and 31, 1966, and January 1, 1967: In the DMK’s State-level conference held at Virugambakkam in Chennai, Annadurai announces the names of DMK candidates for the Assembly elections to be held in February 1967. As DMK treasurer, Karunanidhi collects Rs.11 lakh for the party’s campaign. Annadurai reveals his pleasure in a dramatic way. On January 1, 1967, when Annadurai announces the names of the DMK candidates and the constituencies they will contest from them, he names Saidapet constituency in Chennai and pauses. There is suspense in the air, and Annadurai announces: “Eleven lakhs.” Applause fills the air for it is Annadurai’s innovatively humorous way of saying that Karunanidhi will contest from Saidapet!

February 1967: The DMK comes to power for the first time. The DMK and its rainbow alliance of six parties get an absolute majority in the 234-member House, trouncing the Congress which was in power. K. Kamaraj, then Congress president, and M. Bhaktavatsalam, Chief Minister, are defeated. As agreed upon earlier, the DMK’s allies permit it to form a government of its own. Annadurai becomes the Chief Minister and forms the first non-Congress government in Tamil Nadu. He announces a nine-member Cabinet, which includes leaders such as Nedunchezhiyan, Karunanidhi and Mathialagan. While Annadurai keeps the portfolios of Planning, Finance, Civil Services and Police for himself, Nedunchezhiyan becomes Education Minister. Karunanidhi is Minister for Public Works, Transport, Highways, Minor Irrigation, Housing and Ports.

February 3, 1969: Less than two years into his office as Chief Minister, Annadurai is diagnosed with cancer. In September 1968, he is admitted to Memorial Hospital, New York, for treatment. He dies in Chennai on February 3, 1969. The funeral procession for Annadurai is the largest to be held anywhere in the world, with several lakh people paying homage to him.

February 9, 1969: Karunanidhi, 45 years old, is unanimously elected DMK Legislature Party leader, paving the way for him to succeed Annadurai as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. But fissures erupt in the party with Nedunchezhiyan, who was acting Chief Minister, declining to stand for election although his name is proposed. He says he will not join the Cabinet to be formed by Karunanidhi. The Hindu dated February 10, 1969, quotes Nedunchezhiyan as saying that as long as Annadurai was alive, there was a continuous recognition of his status as the No.2 in the party, and so he would not accept any position which was not consistent with this status. Karunanidhi, however, says he will try his best to persuade Nedunchezhiyan to join his Cabinet. “I want him to be in the Cabinet,” Karuanidhi tells reporters on February 9. But he declines to be drawn into a discussion on Nedunchezhiyan’s claim that he was No.2 in Annadurai’s Cabinet.

February 10, 1969: Karunanidhi is sworn in as Chief Minister by Governor Sardar Ujjal Singh. The former retains the six Ministers who were in Annadurai’s Cabinet. Nedunchechiyan is not in the new team. Karunanidhi takes over the portfolios held by Annadurai and Nedunchezhiyan, in addition to his own subjects. The new Chief Minister says he offered Nedunchezhiyan any portfolio he wanted, but the latter was obstinate and refused to join the Cabinet. The Hindu dated February 10, quotes Karunanidhi as saying that he will wait for the next three or four days to persuade Nedunchezhiyan to join the Cabinet. If he fails, he will expand the Cabinet without Nedunchezhiyan.

In the new Cabinet, Karunanidhi holds the portfolios of Finance, Planning, Police, Education, Public Works and Transport. The six Ministers whom he retains are Mathialagan, A. Govindaswamy, Sathyavani Muthu, S. Madhavan, S.J. Sadiq Pasha and M. Muthuswami.

After he becomes the Chief Minister, Karunanidhi begins writing epistles in Murasoli to his party men, beginning with the words, “Udan pirappe” (My dear brethren). These letters deal with a variety of topics: the DMK’s ideology, his explanations for certain decisions the party took, exhortations to party cadres to work hard during election campaigns, and so on. From 1969 until he fell ill in December 2016, Karunanidhi writes about 7,000 such letters to the party cadres. (They have been published in seven volumes.)

March 1971: When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi calls for elections to the Lok Sabha, one year ahead of schedule, the astute Karunanidhi forms an alliance with her. So the DMK goes for elections to the Assembly and the Lok Sabha in March 1971. The DMK-Congress alliance defeats the Congress (Organisation)-the Swatantra Party alliance headed by Kamaraj and Rajaji. The DMK scores a mammoth victory, with its candidates winning in 184 out of 234 constituencies. Karunanidhi, who is re-elected from Saidapet, becomes Chief Minister for the second time.

October 3, 1972: C. Rajagopalachari greets Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who called on him at his residence in Kilpauk, Madras, to present the Tamrapatra, an award given to freedom fighters.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

October 10, 1972: The DMK suspends the matinee idol M.G. Ramachandran, or MGR, the party treasurer, from all party posts, including his primary membership. Karunanidhi, party president, and Nedunchezhiyan, general secretary, take this decision after a requisition from 26 out of 31 executive council members. N.V. Natarajan, senior DMK leader, tells reporters that MGR is suspended from all party posts and his primary membership because of his recent activities which have been prejudicial to the functioning of the party and have violated party discipline. The simmering feud between Karunanidhi and MGR, which has been going on for a couple of years, erupts into the open after MGR demands that all district secretaries and party leaders at all levels should declare their assets. There was friction earlier too, with MGR keen on becoming the Health Minister and Karunanidhi refusing to accommodate him.

October 17, 1972: MGR announces the formation of a party called “Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam”, which is later renamed All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). The DMK suffers a split, and MGR takes with him a large chunk of its cadres and second-rung leaders. The All World MGR Fans’ Association forms the backbone of the new party. The Communist Party of India (CPI), led by its M. Kalyanasundaram, strongly backs MGR.

May 1973: The AIADMK fields K. Maya Thevar, an advocate, against the DMK candidate Pon. Muthuramalingam in a byelection to the Dindigul Lok Sabha seat, caused by the death of the incumbent DMK member. Maya Thevar wins by a handsome margin, signalling people’s disillusionment with the DMK. In fact, Muthuramalingam comes third after the Congress’ (Syndicate) candidate. Allegations of corruption, nepotism and high-handed behaviour by DMK leaders rock the Karunanidhi government. Meanwhile, relations between the DMK and the Congress (I) sour.

June 25, 1975: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi clamps down the Emergency in the night.

January 31, 1976: The Centre dismisses the Karunanidhi government under Article 356 of the Constitution. President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed issues a proclamation in the night under Article 356 dissolving the State Assembly and placing the State under President’s Rule.

These decisions are consequent to the Union Cabinet receiving a report from Governor K.K. Shah that there prevailed a situation in which the government of the State could no longer be run as per the provisions of the Constitution. According to the Centre, the DMK government is dismissed for “corruption, maladministration and misuse of power” (The Hindu, February 1, 1976). The Centre appoints two IAS officers, P.K. Dave and R.V. Subramanian, as Advisers to the Governor in administering the State.

Ironically, Governor Shah, on the previous day, had praised Karunanidhi for providing “Ram Rajya” in Tamil Nadu.

MGR, former Chief Minister Bhaktavatsalam and CPI leaders welcome the removal of the DMK government. Karunanidhi appeals to the people to avoid violence and maintain peace.

February 3, 1976: The Centre appoints R.S. Sarkaria as a one-man commission to go into allegations of corruption against Karunanidhi and some members of his Cabinet.

DMK leaders such as Murasoli Maran, M.K. Stalin (Karunanidhi’s son), former Mayor of Chennai Chittibabu, and hundreds of DMK cadres are arrested and lodged in prison. Police torture Maran, Stalin, Chittibabu and others in prison. They suffer ill health. Chittibabu dies in prison.

Murasoli, the DMK organ, fills up its pages with sarcastic articles belittling press censorship. An article in Tamil on the front page is headlined, “Lady’s fingers are good for health—results from the research done by Adhilakshmi who has come back from Russia”.

June 2, 1976: “To condemn the partial approach of the censor officers,” as he called it, Karunanidhi chooses a “non-violent” mode of protest. Alone, he reaches the Anna Statue on Anna Salai, holds aloft the DMK flag in one hand and distributes handwritten pamphlets against the Emergency.

March 1977: The Janata Party defeats the Congress in the elections to the Lok Sabha. Indira Gandhi loses power. Morarji Desai becomes Prime Minister. In Tamil Nadu, out of 39 Lok Sabha constituencies, the alliance comprising the Congress (I), the AIADMK and the CPI win 34 seats. The DMK and its allies, including the Congress (O), win in five constituencies.

April 15, 1977: More misfortunes hit the DMK. It suffers another split, with its top leaders, including Nedunchezhiyan, general secretary K. Rajaram and S. Madhavan, resigning from the party, blaming Karunanidhi for the defeat of the DMK in the Lok Sabha elections. They demand that Karunanidhi step down as the party president.

June 10, 1977: Elections are held to the State Assembly. The results signal a big slide in the DMK’s fortunes. The AIADMK trounces the DMK, and MGR becomes the Chief Minister. Karunanidhi is elected from the Anna Nagar constituency and becomes the Leader of the Opposition.

October 30, 1977: Karunanidhi and 28 other top DMK leaders are arrested and remanded to judicial custody when they attempt to show black flags to Indira Gandhi during her visit to Madras and Madurai. The DMK leaders and cadres were protesting against the dismissal of the DMK government in June 1975, and there is violence in both Madurai and Madras.

January 1980: After the fall of the Morarji Desai and Charan Singh governments at the Centre, elections are held to the Lok Sabha in January 1980. Forgetting past bitterness, Indira Gandhi and Karunanidhi forge an alliance between their parties against MGR’s AIADMK. Earlier, MGR introduces economic criterion in reservation for Backward Classes on the advice of C. Achutha Menon, who was earlier Kerala Chief Minister for two terms. But this decision boomerangs on MGR. The DMK and the D.K., which swear by the concept of socially Backward Classes, exploit MGR’s faux paus in their election campaign. Besides, Karunanidhi coins a slogan in Tamil, “Nehruvin magale varuga, nilayana aatchi tharuga” (Welcome to Nehru’s daughter to provide a stable government). The DMK-Congress alliance bags 38 out of the 39 seats from Tamil Nadu in the Lok Sabha elections.

May 28, 1980: Elections are held to the State Assembly after the Indira Gandhi government at the Centre dismisses the MGR government. The Congress and the DMK contest as allies against an alliance led by MGR. If Karunanidhi is confident that the DMK will return to power after its good performance in the Lok Sabha elections, there is disappointment in store for him. The AIADMK returns to power with a big mandate and MGR becomes Chief Minister again. Karunanidhi is elected to the Assembly from Anna Nagar again. This is the sixth consecutive time that he becomes a legislator.

1981: Karunanidhi and Anbazhagan resign their Assembly seats in protest against MGR’s handling of the Sri Lankan Tamil issue.


February 15 to 22, 1982: Karunanidhi leads a sensational “Long March” of DMK cadres from Madurai to Tiruchendur to press “for justice” from the MGR government for the murder of C. Subramania Pillai, verification officer of the famous Murugan temple on the seafront at Tiruchendur. The “padayatra”, in the wake of the C.J.R. Paul Commission’s findings, was to pressure the AIADMK government into arresting the trustees of the temple and “to take immediate action against the police, revenue, medical and the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department officials responsible for the death” of Subramania Pillai. Accompanied by a large number of cadres, Karunanidhi walks 30 km a day to cover the distance of about 180 km from Madurai to Tiruchendur. He addresses a number of public meetings en route. The “padayatra” ends with a rousing reception for Karunanidhi at Tiruchendur, where he addresses a massive public meeting. Earlier, although the Paul Commission had submitted its report to the AIADMK government, it is never tabled in the Assembly. But Karunanidhi releases the report to the press. The report says Subramania Pillai did not commit suicide.

(Karunanidhi later reveals an interesting piece of information: “When newspapers reported, during my padayatra, that I was not keeping well and my legs had swollen, MGR telephoned me and requested me to call it off....” That was the personal bond between the two leaders (The Hindu, Madurai, August 9, 2018).)

1984: This is an eventful year. In October, MGR falls seriously ill. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated on October 31, and her son, Rajiv Gandhi, becomes Prime Minister. MGR goes to the United States for treatment. 

Elections are held simultaneously to the Lok Sabha and the State Assembly in December . The Congress and the AIADMK contest as allies. Karunanidhi does not contest the Assembly elections. The Congress, headed by Rajiv Gandhi, wins a massive mandate in the Lok Sabha elections and Rajiv Gandhi becomes Prime Minister again. In Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK is voted to power again and MGR becomes Chief Minister for the third time. Karunanidhi does not contest the Assembly elections but is elected to the Legislative Council. However, the MGR government abolishes the Council.

December 24, 1987: MGR dies in harness. The AIADMK splits into the Janaki (MGR’s widow) and Jayalalithaa factions. Janaki Ramachandran heads a short-lived, 24-day government. President’s Rule is imposed in Tamil Nadu.

September 17, 1988: Karunanidhi plays an important role in the formation of a seven-party National Front, with V.P. Singh as its convener, to take on the Congress(I), led by Rajiv Gandhi. He organises a mammoth rally, consisting mostly of DMK cadres, and a public meeting in Chennai on September 17, marking the inauguration of the National Front. It is the biggest rally that Madras has ever witnessed. Those watching the rally include Chief Ministers N.T. Rama Rao, S.R. Bommai, P.K. Mahanta, and Devi Lal apart from V.P. Singh, Karunanidhi, Ajit Singh, S.S. Barnala, Biju Patnaik and K.P. Unnikrishnan. 

January 21, 1989: In the elections held to the Tamil Nadu Assembly, the DMK returns to power after an interval of about 13 years. With the Jayalalithaa and Janaki factions contesting separately, and the Congress ploughing its own furrow, it is a cakewalk for the DMK. This, despite Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visiting Tamil Nadu several times to drum up support for the Congress candidates. Karunandihi, who contests from the Harbour seat in Chennai, becomes Chief Minister for the third time.

January 30, 1991: The Chandra Shekhar government at the Centre dismisses the Karunanidhi government when it completes just two years of its five-year term. The Assembly is dissolved and President’s Rule imposed in the State. President R. Venkataraman signs the proclamation of Central rule after the Union Cabinet recommends the dismissal of the DMK government. Despite Governor S.S. Barnala declining to give any report to the Union Cabinet that the constitutional machinery had broken down in Tamil Nadu, the government is dismissed. The Centre says it had to dismiss the DMK government because of its failure to act against Sri Lankan Tamil militants. But the real reason is that the Congress and the AIADMK, headed by Jayalalithaa, brought enormous pressure on Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar to dismiss the government. Karunanidhi calmly faces the situation. There is popular outrage at the Centre’s decision and anger over President Venkataraman’s ready complicity in it. (In a conversation with this reporter, Karunanidhi said he felt relieved after the dismissal because he was in agony every day for several months because of constant threats that his government would be shown the door.)

June 24, 1991: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) assassinates Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperumbudur near Chennai on May 21, 1991, in the midst of his election campaign for the Lok Sabha elections. The AIADMK and the Congress contest as allies. Jayalalithaa and Vazhappadi K. Ramamurthi, then Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) president, unleash a propaganda that the DMK is to be blamed for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. It pays off. In the elections to the Assembly held on June 24, 1991, the AIADMK-Congress alliance scores a landslide win, and Jayalalithaa becomes Chief Minister for the first time. All DMK candidates except Karunanidhi are defeated. 

November 12, 1993: The DMK expels V. Gopalsamy (now called Vaiko), its Rajya Sabha member, after Karunanidhi releases a communication from the Centre about an alleged plot by the LTTE to eliminate Karunanidhi to promote the interests of Gopalsamy. Vaiko goes on to found the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK). Many DMK district secretaries and a big chunk of young DMK cadres throw in their lot with Vaiko. The DMK thus suffers a third split.

May 11, 1996: Karunanidhi takes an early morning walk in Anna Arivalayam premises.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

May 2, 1996: In the Assembly elections held on May 2, the alliance comprising the DMK, the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) headed by G.K. Moopanar and the Left parties trounce the AIADMK. The Jayalalithaa government had become notorious for corruption, violence, profligacy and poor administration. Voters punish Jayalalithaa also; she loses from Bargur. Karunanidhi is elected from Chepauk, Chennai. He becomes Chief Minister for the fourth time and leads the DMK government.

May 10, 2001: A mega alliance of the AIADMK, the TMC, the Congress, the Left parties and the Paatali Makkal Katchi (PMK) defeats the DMK alliance in the Assembly elections held on May 10. Voters are angry that there was no “money circulation” when the DMK was in power. Jayalalithaa becomes Chief Minister again. Chepauk voters elect Karunanidhi as their representative for the second time.

June 30, 2001: There is outrage across the country when the Tamil Nadu police, on Jayalalithaa’s orders in an act of vendetta, storm his Oliver Road residence, wake up 71-year-old Karunanidhi from his sleep around 2 a.m., rough him up, drag him down the staircase and arrest him on charges of corruption. He is remanded in judicial custody in Central Jail, Chennai. Earlier, he sat on the grounds of the prison as he feared that he would be shifted to the Vellore prison.

Karunanidhi tells reporters that when the police barged into his bedroom, they did not show him the arrest warrant. “They pushed me. They dragged me. They tore my shirt. When we arrested her, we treated her respectfully,” he said. The police also rough up and arrest Union Ministers, Murasoli Maran, who has a history of cardiac problems and migraine, and T.R. Baalu (The Hindu, July 1, 2001).

November 23, 2003: The death of Murasoli Maran, aged 69, shatters Karunanidhi, his uncle, who lavished his affection on Maran, groomed him in politics and sent him to New Delhi as the DMK’s pointsman there. Maran was elected to the Lok Sabha five times and to the Rajya Sabha three times.

2004: Sonia Gandhi, Congress president, and Karunanidhi hit it off. What endears Karunanidhi to her is that he declares that the DMK will accept her as Prime Minister (although she is a foreigner) if the Congress is voted to power in the Lok Sabha elections. The DMK-Congress alliance wins all the 40 Lok Sabha seats (39 from Tamil Nadu and one in Puducherry) in the elections. Manmohan Singh becomes Prime Minister.

May 8, 2006: Karunanidhi comes back as Chief Minister for the fifth time after the Democratic Progressive Alliance, comprising the DMK, the Congress, the Left parties and the PMK, wins 163 of the 234 seats. The DMK does not get a majority of its own; it wins only 96 seats, 22 short of a majority. But its government is supported from the outside by its alliance partners. Karunanidhi is elected from Chepauk again. 

April 13, 2011: Assembly elections are held. Karunanidhi contests from his hometown, Tiruvarur, and wins.

May 16, 2011: Jayalalithaa retains power, with the AIADMK winning 134 seats. Stalin spearheads the DMK-Congress campaign, and the alliance gets 98 seats. Karunanidhi wins from Tiruvarur with the highest margin of 68,366 votes. Stalin, who is elected from Kolathur, becomes the Leader of the Opposition.

December 2016: Old age affects Karunanidhi, whose health declines. He remains at home and receives medical treatment.

January 4, 2017: Stalin becomes DMK working president.

July 27, 2018: Karunanidhi completes 49 years as DMK president and steps into the 50th year.

The next day, he is admitted to Kauvery Hospital, Chennai, and he passes away on August 7, 2018.