K. Karunakaran
Union Minister for Industry[1][2]
In office
11 June 1995 – 16 May 1996
Prime MinisterP. V. Narasimha Rao
Preceded byAjit Singh
Succeeded bySuresh Prabhu
5th Chief Minister of Kerala
In office
24 June 1991 – 16 March 1995
Preceded byE. K. Nayanar
Succeeded byA. K. Antony
In office
24 May 1982 – 25 March 1987
Preceded byPresident's rule
Succeeded byE. K. Nayanar
In office
28 December 1981 – 17 March 1982
Preceded byPresident's rule
Succeeded byPresident's rule
In office
25 March 1977 – 25 April 1977
Preceded byC. Achutha Menon
Succeeded byA. K. Antony
Minister of Home Affairs, Government of Kerala[3]
In office
25 September 1971 – 25 March 1977
Chief MinisterC. Achutha Menon
Preceded byC. Achutha Menon
Succeeded byK. M. Mani
Leader of Opposition in Kerala Legislative Assembly
In office
26 March 1987 – 17 June 1991
In office
25 January 1980 – 20 October 1981
In office
29 October 1978 – 7 October 1979
In office
6 March 1967 – 1 November 1969
Member of the Kerala Legislative Assembly[4]
In office
1967 (1967)–1996 (1996)
ConstituencyMala (7 Terms)
Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha[4][5]
In office
1998 (1998)–1999 (1999)
In office
1999 (1999)–2004 (2004)
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha[4][5]
In office
1995 (1995)–1997 (1997)
In office
1997 (1997)–1998 (1998)
In office
2004 (2004)–2005 (2005)
Member of the Travancore–Cochin Legislative Assembly[5][6]
In office
1 July 1949 – 23 March 1956
Personal details
Kannoth Karunakara Marar

(1918-07-05)5 July 1918
Chirakkal, Madras Presidency, British India
(present day Kannur, Kerala, India)
Died23 December 2010(2010-12-23) (aged 92)
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Political partyIndian National Congress
Kalyanikutty Amma
(m. 1954; died 1993)
ChildrenK. Muraleedharan
Padmaja Venugopal
  • Thekkedathu Ravunni Marar
  • Kannoth Kalyani Amma
As of 2 November, 2007
Source: Government of Kerala

Kannoth Karunakaran (5 July 1918 – 23 December 2010), was an Indian politician who served as the fifth chief minister of Kerala in 1977, from 1981 to March 1982, from May 1982 to 1987 and from 1991 to 1995. He is the founder of the Indian National Congress (INC)-led United Democratic Front (UDF) coalition, which has been the main opposition in Kerala since 2016.[7][8]

Karunakaran was close to former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.[7] At the peak of his career in the 1980s and 1990s, he enjoyed considerable access, confidence and control at the All India Congress Committee (AICC), such that he had an important role in helping P. V. Narasimha Rao become Prime Minister of India. He played a crucial role in nurturing and strengthening the INC into a strong political party in Kerala and enjoyed mass support of not just party workers but the entire anti-communist bloc that was active in Kerala.[9] He is also credited with bringing development to multiple sectors in Kerala by spearheading key projects, including Kochi Airport, the country’s first public-private international airport, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, and Kochi's Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium.[10]

Personal life

Karunakaran was born on 5 July 1918 in Chirakkal near Kannur to Thekkedathu Ravunni Marar and Kannoth Kalyani Amma. He had two elder brothers, Kannoth Kunjirama Marar and Kannoth Balakrishna Marar; a younger brother, Kannoth Damodara "Appunni" Marar; and a sister, Devaki, who died when Karunakaran was five years old. His father was a record keeper in the erstwhile Malabar District.[citation needed]

During his childhood, Karunakaran was an expert in swimming, painting, football and volleyball. Though he was named Karunakara Marar, he later dropped his caste title, and came to be known just by his given name.[citation needed]

Karunakaran began his education at Vadakara Government Lower Primary School in 1923. Later, he studied in Andallur Government School and Raja's High School near his home in Chirakkal. After graduating high school, he went to Thrissur and enrolled at the fine arts college, where he obtained degrees in painting and mathematics. For treating an eye disorder, he went to his maternal uncle's home in Vellanikkara near Thrissur, along with his elder brother Kunjirama Marar. Later, he married his uncle's daughter Kalyanikkutty Amma in 1954 at Guruvayoor Temple, when he was 36 and she was 30. Their children are Congress politicians K. Muraleedharan and Padmaja Venugopal.

On 3 June 1992, during his last term as Chief Minister, he had a near fatal car accident on his way to Thiruvananthapuram. He recovered after prolonged treatment in both India and the US.[11] In the next year, his wife died following a heart ailment.[12]

Political career

Karunakaran in 1977

In 1937, Karunakaran joined the flood relief camps that were conducted by V. R. Krishnan Ezhuthachan, C. Achutha Menon, R. M. Manakkalath and other leaders of Prajamandalam, an early freedom movement in Kochi. He became a member of the INC and began to wear khadi. He also participated intensively in trade union activities in the vast Thattil rubber estates where his uncle Raghavan Nair was a writer.[citation needed] During this time he used his artistic skills and labour to help the workers' union, which would become the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), with their posters and campaigns. Gradually, he was picked up by Panampilly Govinda Menon as his favourite follower.[citation needed] Eventually, Karunakaran rose to the level of senior leader of the INTUC, which became one of the largest trade unions in India with over 33 million members. He went on to become INC's Thrissur District Committee President, after which he was elected to the Cochin Legislative Assembly twice before the formation of Kerala State. He contested the 1957 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections against trade unionist and ex-INC member Dr. A. R. Menon, going onto to lose by around two thousand votes.[citation needed]

After a career of both achievements and setbacks in his 30s and most of his 40s, K. Karunakaran was allotted a ticket to contest from a Communist stronghold, Thrissur's Mala constituency, considered a "safe seat" for the Left, in the 1965 Kerala Legislative Assembly Elections. To the astonishment of most political observers, 47-year-old K. Karunakaran defeated the Communist candidate by more than 3000 votes, and went on to represent the constituency in seven successive elections: 1967, 1970, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1987, and 1991.

— Shashi Tharoor, in an article published on Mathrubhumi online[13]

The VIP pavilion in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kaloor, Kochi is named in his honour.[14]

House Election Constituency Result Vote margin
Kerala Legislative Assembly 1957 Thrissur Lost 2486
1965 Mala Won 4762
1967 Won 364
1970 Won 11,053
1977 Won 9466
1980 Won 3402
1982 Won 3410
1982 Nemom Won 3348
1987 Mala Won 6292
1991 Won 2474
Lok Sabha 1996 Thrissur Lost 1480
1998 Thiruvananthapuram Won 15,398
1999 Mukundapuram Won 52,463

In 1967, when Karunakaran was elected to the State Legislature for the first time, the Congress was at its lowest ebb in the state having been routed in the election with just 9 legislators on its side (less than the 10 percent strength which is now mandatory to be recognized as the official opposition party). The defeat of many veteran leaders paved the way for Karunakaran to take up the mantle of the Leader of Opposition. Karunakaran quickly adapted to the role with his dexterous and Machiavellian capabilities putting the EMS Namboodiripad ministry on its toes despite the massive majority it enjoyed in the assembly.

In 1969, Karunakaran faced a severe setback when the Congress legislature party vertically split, leaving Karunakaran with the support of just 5 MLAs. However, Karunakaran, always a master strategist bided his time and played a crucial role in the overthrow of the Namboodiripad ministry and the subsequent formation of a coalition with the new Chief Minister, C. Achutha Menon. By the mid-term elections, the Congress had recovered significantly under Karunakaran and emerged as the largest party post the elections. Although Karunakaran could have technically staked a claim for Chief Ministership in 1970, he chose not to do so, being aware of Achutha Menon's administrative capabilities and visionary ideas for the state. Instead, he went to become the Home Minister in the cabinet, by virtue of which he was the de-facto deputy in the cabinet

In 1977, following the National Emergency, when the Congress was swept out of power across the nation, Karunakaran led the Congress-coalition government to a landslide victory securing 111 seats in the 1977 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections. However, he had to resign after one month following the controversies that emerged about the Rajan case[15] paving the way for his rival AK Antony to become Chief Minister. Regardless, he emerged as a strong supporter of Indira Gandhi after the emergency.[16]

His political downfall began with a car accident that happened to him in June 1992. After the accident, he was hospitalized in Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Trivandrum and was unable to manage the finances and administration of the state government.[17] This became a political crisis when the state government was managed by a kitchen cabinet of Karunakaran's son K. Muraleedharan and his trusted aide and Chief Secretary of the Indian Administrative Service, K. Padmakumar.[18] This was an issue within the state INC as then-Finance Minister and second in command of the ruling coalition Oommen Chandy, belonging to the party's pro-Antony faction, was not given command.[19] By 1993, Karunakaran had recovered and became active in government affairs. During this period, discontent was further aggravated by bringing K. M. Mani into the foray when a split occurred between Kerala Congress and Kerala Congress (Jacob).[20] Meanwhile a revisionist (Malayalam: തിരുത്തൽവാദി, romanizedthiruthalvadi) group emerged within Karunakaran's INC faction led by G. Karthikeyan, Ramesh Chennithala and M. I. Shanavas against his authoritarian tendencies and proxy rule by his son.[21] The situation intensified into an intra-party revolt when M. A. Kuttappan, nominated by the state INC as a Rajya Sabha nominee, was denied candidacy by party leadership, which Karunakaran had considerable influence over.[22] The difference of opinion that emerged between Chandy and Karunakaran became public and vociferous with Chandy threatening to resign and giving speeches against Karunakaran.[23] By the end of 1994, the ISRO espionage case emerged and the case led to political tensions when the Kerala High Court made remarks against then-Inspector General of the Kerala Police and Karunakaran ally Raman Srivastava.[22][24] Thereafter the dissidence in the party grew into a full-scale crisis, with the Antony faction threatening to withdraw their support from the government, and G. K. Moopanar arriving on behalf of P. V. Narasimha Rao to insist that Karunakaran resign.[25] At the time Karunakaran was defending Nambi Narayanan, arguing that no action should be taken against the top scientist without a detailed probe.[26] Later the ISRO case was proven baseless, but after stepping down from the chief ministry of Kerala in 1995, Karunakaran would never again rise up to higher ranks in successive governments or within the party.[27][28] The Democratic Indira Congress (Karunakaran) (DIC(K)) party was founded at a meeting of Karunakuran's INC faction in Thrissur on 1 May 2005. Initially it was called National Congress (Indira), but the name was changed to DIC(K) for registration purposes in August 2005. Karunakaran rejoined the INC on 11 December 2007.


Karunakaran died on 23 December 2010, aged 92, at Ananthapuri Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. He had had respiratory problems, a fever and other age related diseases and had been hospitalized since 21 October 2010. His condition worsened following a stroke and he died following cardiac arrest, as declared by doctors at 5:30 PM. It was coincidental that his and Narasimha Rao's deaths were on same date, Rao having died six years earlier. Karunakaran had played a key role in backing the Rao government and later Rao had dismissed him from the chair of Chief Minister of Kerala.[29][30] His funeral was attended by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the AICC chief Sonia Gandhi. He was cremated with full state honors at his residence in Punkunnam, Thrissur.[31]


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (September 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

K. Karunakaran was the home minister of Kerala during the Emergency period and decimated the Naxalite–Maoist insurgency in Kerala.[32] After the Emergency, the Rajan case rocked Kerala politics and Karunakaran was forced to step down as the case attracted national attention.[15] A habeas corpus petition was filed by T. V. Eachara Warrier asking the state government to produce his son Rajan (a student of the Regional Engineering College, Calicut who had actively participated in protests against the Emergency) in court. Rajan was allegedly killed by the police at the Kakkayam police torture camp and his body disposed of. The legal battle led by his father became one of the most remembered human rights fights in the state and diminished Karunakaran's popularity.[33]

Karunakaran was accused of involvement in the Palmolein Oil Import Scam, about which a case was pending before the Supreme Court at the time of his death.[citation needed] The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) who finally investigated the case mentioned in 2013 that no case can be made against the officials and that there was no loss to the state government,[34] and the case was withdrawn.

He was forced to resign due to allegations that his subordinate, senior Indian Police Service officer Raman Srivastava, was involved in the ISRO espionage scandal.[35][36]

See also


  1. ^ Babu, Sathish (18 October 2014). "K. KARUNAKARAN". Prominent Indian Personalities. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  2. ^ "Former Kerala Chief Minister Karunakaran passes away". The Hindu. 24 December 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  3. ^ "KERALA's FIRST LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY". Information & Public Relations Department. Archived from the original on 8 July 2016. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  4. ^ a b c "Shri K. Karunakaran and Mala". mala.co.in. Mala.co.in. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d "K. Karunakaran". niyamasabha.org. Information System Section, Kerala Legislative Assembly, Thiruvananthapuram. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  6. ^ a b c "KERALA NIYAMASABHA: K.KARUNAKARAN". stateofkerala.in. stateofkerala.in. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Who was K Karunakaran?". Press Trust of India. NDTV. 23 December 2010. Archived from the original on 22 October 2022. Retrieved 17 July 2023.
  8. ^ "As it happened: TMC, AIADMK retain power; BJP takes Assam, Left Kerala". Hindustan Times. 19 May 2016. Retrieved 17 July 2023.
  9. ^ "Former Kerala Chief Minister Karunakaran passes away". The Hindu. 23 December 2010. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  10. ^ "Karunakaran: A titan of Kerala politics". Deccan Herald. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  11. ^ Praveen, M. p (23 December 2015). "Leader's aide takes ride down memory lane". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  12. ^ KRISHNAKUMAR, R. (27 January 2011). "Crafty patriarch". Frontline. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  13. ^ "One and only 'Leader', K. Karunakaran". 23 December 2020.
  14. ^ "Karunakaran Pavilion". The Times of India. 14 July 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  15. ^ a b Rajshri Pant (8 August 2014). "Rajan case: Kerala CM Karunakaran resigns". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  16. ^ "Veteran Congress Leader Karunakaran Dead". Outlook (India). Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  17. ^ T. N. GOPAKUMAR (2 January 2013). "Kerala Chief Minister Karunakaran's road mishap cripples state". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  18. ^ T. N. GOPAKUMAR (4 January 2013). "Karunakaran rules Kerala from bed as he recovers from his June 3 accident". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  19. ^ Kochukudy, Anand. "How the ISRO espionage scandal brought a CM down". Newslaundry. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  20. ^ Menon, Girish (31 October 2011). "Instinctive politician, avid legislator". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  21. ^ T. N. GOPAKUMAR (15 September 1993). "Dissidents raise banner of revolt against K. Karunakaran again". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  22. ^ a b Rajiv G. (3 February 2016). "Karunakaran did not resign on Isro spy case: Oommen Chandy". The Times of India. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  23. ^ "Chandy sang a different tune in 1995, says VS". The Hindu. 25 July 2013. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  24. ^ "ISRO spy case: KPCC president MM Hassan makes major revelation on removal of K Karunakaran as Kerala Chief Minister". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  25. ^ "A K Antony was against Karunakaran's ouster, says KPCC president". The Economic Times. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  26. ^ "I am happy Nambi got justice: Former DGP Raman Srivastava". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  27. ^ "Narasimha Rao may be behind conspiracy: Karunakaran son". The Indian Express. 8 October 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  28. ^ SHEKHAR GUPTA (31 January 1995). "Indian intelligence agencies feud, work at cross-purposes bringing embarrassment". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  29. ^ Karunakaran passes away. The Hindu. Retrieved on 23 December 2010
  30. ^ Joe A Scaria (23 December 2010). "Karunakaran passes away, bringing curtains down on era in Kerala politics". The Economic Times. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  31. ^ "Karunakaran cremated with state honours". The Hindu. 25 December 2010. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  32. ^ "The man who stopped Naxalism's spread in Kerala". The New Indian Express. 21 June 2017. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  33. ^ "Remembering Rajan, the Innocent Victim of Brutal Emergency Excesses". The Wire. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  34. ^ "Kerala government withdraws palmolein case". The Hindu. 24 September 2013. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  35. ^ "How the ISRO espionage scandal brought a CM down". Newslaundry. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  36. ^ "Only my father Karunakaran didn't get justice in ISRO spy case: K Muraleedharan on Nambi Narayanan". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 30 March 2021.

Further reading

Political offices Preceded byC. Achutha Menon Chief Minister of Kerala 1977 Succeeded byA. K. Antony Preceded byE.K. Nayanar Chief Minister of Kerala 1981–1987 Succeeded byE.K. Nayanar Preceded byE.K. Nayanar Chief Minister of Kerala 1991–1995 Succeeded byA. K. Antony