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M Karunanidhi, towering leader of Tamil Nadu, died at Kauvery Hospital in Chennai Tuesday evening. He had been ill for over a week and had been hospitalized. For most part of his recent bout of illness, his vital organs stayed healthy but the hospital put out a statement on Monday evening saying keeping his organs healthy had become a challenge.

Among the last of the great leaders of the Dravidian movement, his death, coming soon after the passing away of latter-day rival Jayalalithaa, signifies the end of an era. His son M K Stalin will step into his shoes as party leader at a time when the prospects for his party, the DMK, appear to be bright in the next elections.

While the leadership transition may be smooth, Karunanidhi’s absence may never be filled, for he was not just the leader of a party or a former chief minister but a man who had made his leading presence felt in nearly every facet of Tamil life.

India has scarcely seen such a multi-faceted personality who dominated the political, literary and social arenas and left an indelible imprint on the worlds of theatre, film and fine arts. His dialogue and scripts for actors MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and SSR catapulted them to fame.

The statistics pertaining to his life are mind boggling indeed – five times Chief Minister,  active in public life for over six decades,  president of the DMK for 50 years, writer, playwright,  lyricist,  cartoonist,  editor and orator.

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