Veteran South Indian politician Muthuvel Karunanidhi dies

Supporters gather as an ambulance carrying the remains of Indian Tamil leader M. Karunanidhi leaves the hospital in Chennai, India on Tuesday. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 August 2018
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Veteran South Indian politician Muthuvel Karunanidhi dies

  • Karunanidhi became the state’s chief minister, the top elected official in 1969 and held that position five times for a total of 19 years
  • Cinema has always influenced Tamil politics by turning actors into popular politicians

NEW DELHI: Muthuvel Karunanidhi, a popular scriptwriter-turned-politician in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, has died after a prolonged illness. He was 94.
Kauvery Hospital said Karunanidhi died Tuesday after suffering multiple organ failure. Hundreds of supporters carrying his photograph held a vigil at the hospital praying for his recovery. Many wept when they learned of his death.
Karunanidhi dominated the Tamil-language movie industry as a screenwriter beginning in the 1950s, and later the political scene for nearly five decades. He became the state’s chief minister, the top elected official in 1969 and held that position five times for a total of 19 years. He led the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam political party.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that India and particularly Tamil Nadu would miss Karunanidhi immensely.
“We have lost a deep-rooted mass leader, prolific thinker, accomplished writer and a stalwart whose life was devoted to the welfare of the poor and the marginalized,” Modi said.
Karunanidhi stopped making public appearances two years ago as his health deteriorated.
Meanwhile, a dispute erupted over the burial site for Karunanidhi with the state government, run by a rival party, rejecting his party’s demand that he be laid to rest on Marina beach in Chennai, the state capital, next to a memorial of his mentor and the party founder, C. N. Annadurai. The burial is scheduled for Wednesday.
The state government, run by the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, in a statement said it was unable to allot space at Marina beach owing to some legal disputes pending a court settlement. It offered a two-acre (less than a hectare) site elsewhere in the city.
The Press Trust of India news agency said the state government appeared to be reluctant to allot space for Karunanidhi’s burial at the Marina beach as he was not a serving top elected official.
Karunanidhi’s DMK party moved a petition before the chief justice of the state High Court who is expected to hear both sides later Tuesday.
He is the second key political figure to die in Tamil Nadu state in the past two years after Jayaram Jayalalithaa of the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, creating a huge political vacuum.
Cinema has always influenced Tamil politics by turning actors into popular politicians. C.N. Annadurai and Karunanidhi were both scriptwriters who went on to become chief ministers. M.G. Ramachandran, a top actor-turned-politician, also had a strong screen presence and following and ruled the state for nearly 10 years as its top elected official.
From his school days, Karunanidhi showed interest in drama, poetry and literature. He began his career as a screenwriter in the Tamil film industry at the age of 20. His first film, Rajakumaari, gained him recognition and popularity.
Karunanidhi penned screenplays and dialogues for more than 50 movies. He also wrote the stories for some of them, such as Marudanattu Ilavarasi, 1950, Mandiri Kumari, 1950, Tirumbipar, 1953 and Arasilangkumari, 1961.
He became a powerful political figure using his wit and oratorical skills after joining politics at age 33 and winning a state Legislature seat in 1957. He won 13 state elections as a lawmaker.
He had three wives, one of whom has died. He is also survived by four sons and two daughters, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
Karunanidhi’s second son, M.K. Stalin, is his chosen political heir. A daughter, Kanimozhi, is a lawmaker in the Indian Parliament.


Row over Putin’s attendance at Austria minister’s wedding

Austria's Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl addresses the media before a two-day cabinet meeting in Seggau, Austria, in this January 5, 2018 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 August 2018
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Row over Putin’s attendance at Austria minister’s wedding

  • The invitation to Putin has angered Kiev, which said it would prevent Austria playing a role in the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine
  • Putin confirmed he would be attending the wedding before heading to talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel near Berlin on Saturday evening

VIENNA: The expected attendance of Russian President Vladimir Putin at Saturday’s wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl sparked a row Friday over whether the visit was appropriate.
“How is Austria’s presidency of the EU meant to live up to the government’s own claims of building bridges (between the EU and Russia) and being an honest broker, when Austria’s foreign minister and chancellor are so obviously on one side?” asked MP Andreas Schieder of the opposition Social Democrats (SPOe).
SPOe MEP Evelyn Regner said the invite sent a “shameful” image of Austria to its EU partners, branding it “a provocation of European proportions.”
The Greens called for Kneissl’s resignation, pointing out that “Vladimir Putin is the EU’s most aggressive enemy in matters of foreign policy.”
Kneissl, 53, who was nominated for the post by the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), will marry businessman Wolfgang Meilinger in a ceremony in a wine-growing village near the southeastern city of Graz.
Putin confirmed he would be attending the wedding before heading to talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel near Berlin on Saturday evening.
Putin’s attendance was originally described as a “private event” by Kneissl’s office but has since been upgraded to a “working visit.”
Several hundred police officers will take part in the security operation around the wedding.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the center-right People’s Party (OeVP) and FPOe Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache are also expected at the ceremony.
In 2016, the FPOe signed a “cooperation pact” with Putin’s United Russia party.
The invitation to Putin has angered Kiev, which said it would prevent Austria playing a role in the Minsk agreements aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The foreign ministry has insisted that Putin’s visit “will not change anything in terms of Austria’s foreign policy positions.”
The invitation has even provoked some criticism from within Kurz’s own OeVP party, with one of its MEPs Othmar Karas saying: “I can’t grasp the logic and the purpose of making such a personal occasion political and open to misuse in this way.”
Russia has been accused of seeking to weaken and divide the EU, notably by maintaining links with populist parties in several European countries.
Kurz’s OeVP and the FPOe have been in coalition together since December after an election campaign in which both parties ran on anti-immigration platforms.