Shanmuganathan dies at 80

He was Karunanidhi’s secretary for over four decades

December 22, 2021 01:23 am | Updated 01:23 am IST - CHENNAI

Loyal aide:  K. Shanmuganathan conversing with former  Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

Loyal aide: K. Shanmuganathan conversing with former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

K. Shanmuganathan, secretary of late DMK leader and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi for over four decades, died of age-related ailments here on Tuesday. He was 80.

In a condolence message, DMK president M.K. Stalin said Shanmuganathan was “like the eldest brother to me, and an important pillar in the Gopalapuram family has fallen”.

DMK general secretary Duraimurugan and MDMK leader Vaiko were among those who paid homage in person. PMK leader S. Ramadoss condoled his death.

Karunanidhi’s ‘shadow’

Known in the party circles as Karunanidhi’s “shadow”, Shanmuganathan remained a loyal aide to the DMK patriarch, whether the party was in power or not, until his death in August 2018.

A native of Tiruvarur district, Shanmuganathan joined Tiruvarur Cooperative Bank.

He learnt typing, cleared a service commission examination and joined the then Madras Police Commissioner’s office as a typist. But his knowledge of Tamil shorthand made him cross paths with Karunanidhi.

His report on the then Opposition leader Karunanidhi’s speech at a public meeting resulted in a case being filed against him. “He [Karunanidhi] was impressed that I had transcribed exactly what he spoke. When the DMK came to power, he traced me down,” Shanmuganathan said in an interview to The Hindu Tamil in 2017.

Offer turned down

Though he initially turned down a job offer from Karunanidhi, then Minister for Public Works, to be his personal assistant, his father forced Shanmuganathan to take up the offer. Since the DMK leader had already hired people, Shanmuganathan joined the Legislative Assembly Secretariat.

On leave for his sister’s wedding in 1969, Shanmuganathan received a telegram that read: “Leave Cancel. Join Chief Minister’s Office as P.A.” On February 16, 1969, he took charge.

When the DMK government was dismissed during Emergency, and the AIADMK under M.G. Ramachandran captured power, Shanmuganathan was about to resign on the advice of his boss.

But Karunanidhi’s nephew Murasoli Maran suggested that his services could still be requisitioned since the Leader of the Opposition was entitled to a PA. MGR was initially reluctant but later consented.

He could always be spotted behind or next to Karunanidhi at public meetings. He had brief spells of differences with the former Chief Minister but he would soon reconcile with him. He was tasked with typing out replies to party workers and political statements as Karunanidhi narrated or penned his thoughts down.

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