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K. Karunakaran
Karunakaran Kannoth.jpg
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
Opposition Leader of Kerala
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
Born(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)
K. 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 5th Chief Minister of Kerala in 1977, from 1981 to March 1982, from May 1982 to 1987 and again from 1991 to 1995. He is the founder of the United Democratic Front (UDF) coalition, which is the current political alliance in Kerala led by INC.[7]

K. Karunakaran was close to former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.[7] At the helm of his career in the 1980s and 1990s, he enjoyed considerable access, confidence and control at All India Congress Committee to a point that he had an important role in helping P. V. Narasimha Rao become the Prime Minister of India. He played a crucial role in nurturing and strengthening INC into a strong political party in Kerala and enjoyed mass support of not just the party workers but the entire anti-communist solidarity that was active in Kerala.[8] He is also credited with bringing development in multiple sectors in Kerala by spearheading key projects. The Kochi airport, the country’s first international airport in the private sector, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, the rainbow bridge at Kochi marine drive, the Nehru international stadium at Kochi were some of his contributions.[9]

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, Kunjirama Marar and Balakrishna Marar; a younger brother, Damodara Marar (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 name.[citation needed]

Karunakaran started his school education by joining Vadakara Govt. Lower Primary School in 1923. Later, he studied in Andallur government school and the famous Raja's High School near his home in Chirakkal. After passing matriculation from Raja's High School, he went to Thrissur and joined Govt. Fine Arts' college, from where he took 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 maternal uncle's daughter Kalyanikkutty Amma in 1954 at Guruvayoor Temple, when he was 36 and Kalyanikkutty Amma was 30. K. Muraleedharan and Padmaja Venugopal, famous Congress politicians, are their children.

On 3 June 1992, during his last stint as Chief Minister, he had met with a near fatal car accident on his way to Thiruvananthapuram. It was after a prolonged treatment in both India and U.S.A. that he survived.[10] In the next year, Kalyanikkutty Amma died following a heart ailment.[11]

Political life

K. Karunakaran in 1977
K. 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 struggle movement in Cochin State. He became a member of the Indian National Congress and began to wear Khadi. He also participated intensively in the trade union activities in the vast Thattil rubber estates where his uncle Raghavan Nair was a 'writer'.[citation needed] During this time, he would spare his artistic skills and labour in helping the workers' union (later INTUC) for their wall writings and campaigns. Gradually, he was picked up by Panampilly Govinda Menon as his most favourite follower.[citation needed] In due course, Karunakaran rose to a level of the senior-most Leader of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC). The INTUC later became one of the largest trade unions in India having with over 4 million memberships today. He went on to become the Thrissur District Congress Committee President, after which he was elected to the Cochin Legislative Assembly twice before the formation of Kerala State. He contested in the 1957 Kerala Legislative Assembly Elections against a strong trade unionist and an ex. congressmen, DR.A R Menon, when no one in the state Congress party came up front to oppose Mr. Menon. When the results came, Karunakaran lost by less than one 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[12]

The VIP pavilion in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kaloor, Kochi is named after him in his honour.[13]

House Election Constituency Result Majority
Kerala Legislative Assembly 1957 Thrissur Lost 2486
1965 Mala Won 4762
1967 Mala Won 364
1970 Mala Won 11053
1977 Mala Won 9466
1980 Mala Won 3402
1982 Mala Won 3410
1982 Nemom Won 3348
1987 Mala Won 6292
1991 Mala Won 2474
Loksabha 1996 Thissur Lost 1480
1998 Thiruvananthapuram Won 15398
1999 Mukundapuram Won 52463

In 1977, following The National Emergency (India) when Congress governments lost elections across the nation, Karunakaran led congress to a thumping victory securing 111 in 1977 Kerala Legislative Assembly elections. However, he had to resign after one month following the controversies that emerged about Rajan case.[14] But he emerged into center stage as a strong supporter of Indira Gandhi after emergency.[15]

The political downfall of K. Karunakaran commenced with an accident that happened to him 1992 June. After the accident K. Karunakaran was hospitalized in Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Trivandrum and there was a period of crisis within the finances and administration of the state government following this.[16] This grew into a political crisis when the affairs of state government was managed by a Kitchen Cabinet of K. Muraleedharan son of K.Karunakaran and K. Padmakumar I.A.S., Chief Secretary and trusted aide of Karunakaran.[17] This situation embroiled a crisis within the state Congress as then Finance Minister and second in command of ruling front, Oommen Chandy belonging to the pro- Antony faction within the party was not given the charge.[18] By 1993, Karunakaran recovered and became active in the affairs, during this period, the discontent generated earlier was further aggravated by bringing K. M. Mani into the foray when a split occurred in Kerala Congress and Kerala Congress (Jacob) was formed.[19] During this same period a correctionist(thiruthalvadi) group emerged within Karunakaran faction led by G. Karthikeyan, Ramesh Chennithala and M. I. Shanavas against the authoritarian tendency of Karunakaran and proxy rule by his son Muraleedharan.[20] The situation intensified into an inner party revolt when M.A, Kuttappan mooted by state Congress as Rajya Sabha nominee was denied candidature due to instruction from high command where Karunakaran had considerable influence.[21] The difference of opinion that emerged between Oommen Chandy and Karunakaran became public and vociferous with Chandy threatening to resign and giving speeches against Karunakaran.[22] By the fag end of 1994, the ISRO espionage case emerged and the case assumed a political fervor when Kerala High Court made remarks against then Inspector General of Kerala Police Raman Srivastava IPS who was close with Karunakaran.[21][23] Thereafter the dissidence within party grew into a full scale crisis where Antony faction was in verge of withdrawing support to the government and then G. K. Moopanar arrived on behalf of P. V. Narasimha Rao and insisted Karunakaran to resign.[24] At that time, Karunakaran was all for shielding Nambi Narayanan and argued that no action should be taken against a top scientist without a detailed probe.[25] Later ISRO case was proved baseless however after stepping down from the Chief ministership of Kerala in 1995, Karunakaran could never rise up to higher ranks in successive governments or within the party ever.[26][27]Democratic Indira Congress (Karunakaran) founded at a meeting in Thrissur by the Karunakuran faction of the Indian National Congress on 1 May 2005. Initially it was called National Congress (Indira), but the name was changed DIC(K) for registration purposes in August of the same year.He rejoined on Congress in 11 December 2007.


Karunakaran died on 23 December 2010, aged 92, at Ananthapuri Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. He had had respiratory problems, fever and other age related diseases and had been hospitalized since 21 October 2010. His condition worsened following a stroke and died following a cardiac arrest, as declared by doctors at 5:30 PM. It was coincidental that his death and Narasimha Rao's death was on same date, Rao had died six years earlier in 2004. Karunakaran had played key role in backing the Rao Government and later Rao had dismissed Karunakaran from the chair of Chief Minister of Kerala.[28][29] 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.[30]


The first biography on him titled K.Karunakaran was written by Vrindavanam Venugopalan. Published by Islamiya Books, Aluva in 1992.[31]


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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.[14] A habeas corpus petition was filed by T.V. Eachara Warrier asking the state machinery to produce his son Rajan (a student of Regional Engineering College, Calicut), who actively participated in protests against the emergency declared by the Indira government) in court. Rajan was allegedly killed by the police at Kakkayam police torture camp and the body disposed of. The legal battle led by Rajan's father became one of the most remembered human rights fights in the state and diminished Karunakaran's popularity.[33]

Karunakaran was an accused in the Palmolein Oil Import Scam, which 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] The case was finally withdrawn.

He was forced to resign due to the allegations about involvement of a senior Indian Police Service officer under him named Raman Srivastava in 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". Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d "K. Karunakaran". Information System Section, Kerala Legislative Assembly, Thiruvananthapuram. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  6. ^ a b c "KERALA NIYAMASABHA: K.KARUNAKARAN". Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  7. ^ a b Who was K Karunakaran?. Press Trust of India. NDTV. Retrieved 23 December 2010
  8. ^ "Former Kerala Chief Minister Karunakaran passes away". The Hindu. 23 December 2010. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  9. ^ "Karunakaran: A titan of Kerala politics". Deccan Herald. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  10. ^ Praveen, M. p (23 December 2015). "Leader's aide takes ride down memory lane". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  11. ^ KRISHNAKUMAR, R. (27 January 2011). "Crafty patriarch". Frontline. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  12. ^ "One and only 'Leader'".
  13. ^ "Karunakaran Pavilion". The Times of India. 14 July 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  14. ^ a b Rajshri Pant (8 August 2014). "Rajan case: Kerala CM Karunakaran resigns". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  15. ^ "Veteran Congress Leader Karunakaran Dead". Outlook (India). Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  16. ^ T. N. GOPAKUMAR (2 January 2013). "Kerala Chief Minister Karunakaran's road mishap cripples state". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Kochukudy, Anand. "How the ISRO espionage scandal brought a CM down". Newslaundry. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  19. ^ Menon, Girish (31 October 2011). "Instinctive politician, avid legislator". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  20. ^ T. N. GOPAKUMAR (15 September 1993). "Dissidents raise banner of revolt against K. Karunakaran again". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "Chandy sang a different tune in 1995, says VS". The Hindu. 25 July 2013. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  23. ^ "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.
  24. ^ "A K Antony was against Karunakaran's ouster, says KPCC president". The Economic Times. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  25. ^ "I am happy Nambi got justice: Former DGP Raman Srivastava". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  26. ^ "Narasimha Rao may be behind conspiracy: Karunakaran son". The Indian Express. 8 October 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  27. ^ SHEKHAR GUPTA (31 January 1995). "Indian intelligence agencies feud, work at cross-purposes bringing embarrassment". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  28. ^ Karunakaran passes away. The Hindu. Retrieved on 23 December 2010
  29. ^ Joe A Scaria (23 December 2010). "Karunakaran passes away, bringing curtains down on era in Kerala politics". The Economic Times. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  30. ^ "Karunakaran cremated with state honours". The Hindu. 25 December 2010. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  31. ^ "Vrindavanam G Venugopal passes away". The New Indian Express. 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