Indian Political Icon Muthuvel Karunanidhi Has Died

How a high school drop-out became a political icon.

Muthuvel Karunanidhi, one of India's longest serving politicians, died on Tuesday aged 94.

Karunanidhi, who was the chief of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party, was admitted into hospital in late July after his blood pressure dropped.

Staff were unable to revive him when his health deteriorated. A statement released by the hospital said "despite the best possible efforts of our team of doctors and nurses to resuscitate him, he failed to respond".

Thousands gathered outside the Kauvery hospital in Chennai following the news of Karunanidhi's death.

Thousands gather outside the hospital where Karunanidhi died. Image: Getty Images.

The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also released a statement offering his condolences.

"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," tweeted Modi.

High School Drop Out To Political Leader

During his time at school Karunanidhi became interested in social activism. His interest led to  the Tamil Nadu Tamil Manavar Mandram, the first student wing of the Dravidian Movement. He was also the founder of the school newspaper which eventually grew to become the official paper of his party, the DMK.

He dropped out of high school and started working as a scriptwriter.  It was at this time that he became well acquainted with fellow writer and founder of the DMK C.N. Annadurai.

Together, the pair went on to push their political agenda through their scripts and films. Their main message was self-respect and social reform and with the involvement of film stars, the DMK managed to get support.

Karunanidhi (left) at the Chief Ministers Conference held in New Delhi in 1972. Image: Getty Images.

Karunanidhi was first elected into the legislative assembly in what was then known as Madras state in 1957 and by 1961 he was the treasurer of the DMK. Just one year later he was named the deputy leader of the opposition when the DMK entered the state assembly and in 1969 he took over as the leader of the party.

He held his position for nearly 18 years over an impressive five terms.