How Gopalapuram turned into a political hub

Karunanidhi’s modest residence has had a bevy of star visitors, including Narendra Modi, Puttaparthi Sai Baba

August 08, 2018 02:12 am | Updated 02:12 am IST - Chennai

CHENNAI, 29/05/2008: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's Gopalapuram residence in Chennai.
Photo: V. Ganesan 29/05/08

CHENNAI, 29/05/2008: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's Gopalapuram residence in Chennai. Photo: V. Ganesan 29/05/08

When he settled in Chennai several decades ago, M. Karunanidhi first lived in Thiyagaraja Nagar and Balaji Nagar in Royapettah. He bought the house in Gopalapuram in 1955 from one Sarabeswara Iyer using the remuneration he received for writing the script for the film Pudhaiyal . He re-registered the house in the name of his sons M.K. Alagiri, M.K. Stalin and M.K. Thamizharasu in 1968.

A nerve centre of political activities since the DMK captured power in 1967, the house had been visited by almost every national leader belonging to an array of political parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi who called on him last year.

In a testament to Mr. Karunanidhi’s appeal as a mass leader and despite his atheist credentials, even Puttaparthi Sai Baba dropped in at the former’s Gopalapuram residence in January 2007.

Despite its star occupant, the modest residence of the DMK chief was equally accessible to common people. In fact, for many years, he had a thatched roof on the terrace but it was removed in the early 2000s based on a government directive following the fire accident in a school in Kumbakonam.

In recent months, Mr. Karunanidhi had spent his time on the first floor of the house. His body was also taken there from the hospital on Tuesday night.

In 2010, on the eve of his 86th birthday, he wrote a will donating the Gopalapuram residence to the Annai Anjugam Trust for running a free hospital for the poor after his and his wife’s lifetime.

History of Arivalayam

Likewise, Arivalayam, the headquarters of the DMK, was constructed by Karunanidhi after the party was forced to vacate the Legislative Party office in 1985 when MGR was the Chief Minister. “The secretary of the Assembly issued a notice, complaining that posters were affixed at the office and cars were parked in the portico. Though I promised that posters and cars would not be allowed, the government made it clear that we should leave by May 31, 1985,” Mr. Karunanidhi had recorded in his autobiography.

Subsequently, Mr. Karunanidhi and other senior leaders were arrested and the office closed.

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