(Reuters) – M Karunanidhi, five-time chief minister of India’s Tamil Nadu state and one of the dominant figures in the politics of southern India for half a century, died on Tuesday at the age of 94.
An outspoken atheist in a country where politicians often trumpet their piety, Karunanidhi built his political machine as a crusader for social justice, with policies aimed at helping those at the bottom of India’s rigid Hindu caste hierarchy.
Thousands of his supporters were gathered outside the hospital in state capital Chennai to mourn his demise, as scores of policemen kept watch. Roads outside the hospital and at Karunanidhi’s residence were packed with people.
Karunanidhi, who led his party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for about 50 years, had been treated in hospital since July 26 for age-related ailments including urinary tract infections.