Sea of humanity gathers in Chennai to mourn Karunanidhi's death (Third Lead)
Chennai : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday led a sea of mourners in paying homage to DMK patriarch and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi whose DMK won a major legal battle for his last resting place on the Maina Beach here.
Lakhs of emotionally charged people from all over Tamil Nadu gathered near Rajaji Hall, the British-built banquet hall in the sprawling government estate, where the 94-year-old Karunanidhi's body lay in state wrapped in the national tricolour.
DMK cadres and people belonging to all ages cried their eyes out in recognition of their leader's service to the poor and oppressed with pioneering welfare schemes. Thousands of police personnel deployed near Rajaji Hall had a difficult time keeping the crowds under check.
Modi, who flew from Delhi in a special plane, led a host of dignitaries from politics, cinema and various other fields to pay respect to the late DMK President after laying a wreath on the body.
After going around the casket in which the body was kept, the Prime Minister patted M.K. Stalin, Karunanidhi's son and political heir, and his daughter Kanimozhi, an MP, and comforted them with words of solace.
After exchanging a few words with them, Modi also comforted other family members and left.
The Prime Minister was accompanied by Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan.
Modi later tweeted that Karunanidhi dedicated himself to Tamil Nadu and to the interest of the poor and the depressed. "Though he is dead, he lives in the heart of crores of people."
As the two Houses of Parliament paid homage to the last link of the Dravidian era and adjourned for the day, the central government observed a day of national mourning. The national flag flew half-mast and all government functions were cancelled for the day.
Leaders from national parties, including Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, former CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat, former Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy and CPI leader D. Raja, were also at the Rajaji Hall to pay their respects.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee flew into Chennai on Tuesday night and visited the Gopalapuram residence to pay her last respects. Several other national leaders were headed to Chennai.
Karunanidhi's body was brought to Rajaji Hall early on Wednesday after it was kept at Gopalapuram and in the house of Kanimozhi for public to pay homage.
Governor Purohit, Chief Minister K. Palaniswami, his deputy O. Paneerselvam, cabinet ministers and leaders and people from all walks of life filed past the mortal remains.
After a tense overnight drama, the DMK on Wednesday morning won a major legal battle when the Madras High Court allowed the burial of Karunanidhi at Marina Beach.
The High Court bench comprising of acting Chief Justice Huluvadi G. Ramesh and Justice S.S. Sundar turned down the arguments of the state government and rejected its order allotting a two-acre burial site on Sardar Patel Marg besides the memorial of late Chief Ministers C. Rajagopalachari, K. Kamaraj and Bhaktavatsalam.
DMK leader and lawyer Kannadasan told reporters that the court also asked the government to make arrangements for the burial.
As the judges gave the order, an emotional Stalin broke down on hearing the news and so did top leaders including Duraimurugan, A. Raja and Kanimozhi.
Chief Minister for five times and leader of the DMK for 50 long years, the DMK stalwart, one of India's most experienced politicians, breathed his last owing to age-related ailments in a private hospital here on Tuesday evening.
There was a complete shutdown in the city and across the state as the government declared a public holiday as a mark of respect to Karunanidhi.
Private bus operators stopped their services to and from Chennai till Wednesday evening. However, people from different parts of the state were reaching Chennai using other modes of transport.
(V. Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)