K. Karunakaran


K. Karunakaran
Karunakaran Kannoth.jpg
Minister of 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
GovernorB. Rachaiah
Preceded byE. K. Nayanar
Succeeded byA. K. Antony
In office
24 May 1982 – 25 March 1987
DeputyC. H. Mohammed Koya
K. Avukader Kutty Naha
Preceded byPresident's rule
Succeeded byE. K. Nayanar
In office
28 December 1981 – 17 March 1982
GovernorJothi Venkatachalam
DeputyC. H. Mohammed Koya
Preceded byPresident's rule
Succeeded byPresident's rule
In office
25 March 1977 – 25 April 1977
GovernorN. N. Wanchoo
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
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
Member of the Kochi Legislative Assembly[5][6]
In office
1948 (1948)–1949 (1949)
Councillor of Thrissur[6]
In office
1945 (1945)–1948 (1948)
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)
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 and member of the Indian National Congress (INC). He served as the Chief Minister of Kerala four times: for a brief period from March 1977 to April 1977, another short term from December 1981 to March 1982, after which president's rule was invoked in the state, and subsequently served from May 1982 to May 1987, and eventually from June 1991 to May 1995. He is the founder of the United Democratic Front (UDF), which is a political alliance in Kerala led by INC.[7]

He was instrumental in several massive infrastructure projects in Kerala which includes the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi,[8] and the Cochin International Airport, both of which were sanctioned during his last stint as Chief Minister.[9] Other major projects introduced during the reign of Karunakaran include the Kerala State Film Development Corporation, Goshree bridges of Kochi, Guruvayur Railway Line, Rajiv Gandhi Combined Cycle Power Plant at Kayamkulam, etc.[10] The MG University, Kottayam, was created by bifurcating University of Kerala in the year 1983. A special government department for the welfare of Scheduled Castes was formed for first time in the state when K. Karunakaran became the chief minister. It was during the reign of first UDF government (Third Karunakaran ministry), that the last two districts of Kerala, namely Pathanamthitta and Kasaragod, were carved out, making the total number of districts at 14.[10] The first phase of Kollam Bypass was completed in 1993.

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 bringing P. V. Narasimha Rao to the Prime Ministership of India. This earned him the sobriquet kingmaker.[11][12] He played a crucial role in nurturing and strengthening Indian National Congress 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 then.[13] He was called as Leader within the party circles.[14]

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 govt. 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.[15] In the next year, Kalyanikkutty Amma died following a heart ailment.[16]

Political life

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[17]

The VIP pavilion in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kaloor, Kochi is named after him in his honour.[9]

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.[18] But he emerged into center stage as a strong supporter of Indira Gandhi after emergency.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26] By the fag end of 1994, the ISRO Spy 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.[25][27] 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.[28] 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.[29][30]


Karunakaran died on 23 December 2010, aged 92, at Ananthapuri Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. He was suffering from 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.[31][32] 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.[33]


The first biography on him titled K.Karunakaran was written by Vrindavanam Venugopalan. Published by Islamiya Books, Aluva in 1992.[34]


K. Karunakaran was the home minister of Kerala during the emergency period.[35] After the Emergency, the Rajan case rocked Kerala politics and Karunakaran was forced to step down as the case attracted national attention.[18] 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 off. 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.[36]

Karunakaran was an accused in the Palmolein Oil Import Scam, which was pending before the Supreme Court at the time of his death. Allegations of mass land acquisition in violation of Benami just before the construction of Cochin International Airport had also been leveled at him.

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.[37][38]

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. Retrieved 23 December 2010
  8. ^ "VIP Football Pavilion at Kaloor Stadium Named after K Karunakaran". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Karunakaran Pavilion". The Times of India. 14 July 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  10. ^ a b Chief Ministers, Ministers, and Leaders of Opposition of Kerala (PDF). Thiruvananthapuram: Secratriat of Kerala Legislature. 2018. p. 22.
  11. ^ "K Karunakaran, the Kingmaker". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  12. ^ "Why it worked for Congress to have a non-Gandhi face like Narasimha Rao". www.dailyo.in. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  13. ^ "Former Kerala Chief Minister Karunakaran passes away". The Hindu. Special Correspondent. 23 December 2010. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ Staff Reporter (23 December 2017). "Hassan 'regrets' ousting Karunakaran in 1995". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  15. ^ Praveen, M. p (23 December 2015). "Leader's aide takes ride down memory lane". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  16. ^ KRISHNAKUMAR, R. "Crafty patriarch". Frontline. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  17. ^ "One and only 'Leader'".
  18. ^ a b August 8, Rajshri Pant; May 15, 2014 ISSUE DATE; March 27, 1977UPDATED; Ist, 2015 15:22. "Rajan case: Kerala CM Karunakaran resigns". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ "Veteran Congress Leader Karunakaran Dead". Outlook (India). Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  20. ^ January 2, T. N. GOPAKUMAR; July 15, 2013 ISSUE DATE; August 6, 1992UPDATED; Ist, 2013 16:14. "Kerala Chief Minister Karunakaran's road mishap cripples state". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ January 4, T. N. GOPAKUMAR; July 31, 2013 ISSUE DATE; August 30, 1992UPDATED; Ist, 2013 18:50. "Karunakaran rules Kerala from bed as he recovers from his June 3 accident". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ Kochukudy, Anand. "How the ISRO espionage scandal brought a CM down". Newslaundry. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  23. ^ Menon, Girish (31 October 2011). "Instinctive politician, avid legislator". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  24. ^ September 15, T. N. GOPAKUMAR; September 15, 1993 ISSUE DATE; July 24, 1993UPDATED; Ist, 2013 12:02. "Dissidents raise banner of revolt against K. Karunakaran again". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ a b Feb 3, Rajiv G. / TNN / Updated; 2016; Ist, 20:06. "Karunakaran did not resign on Isro spy case: Oommen Chandy | India News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 27 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ "Chandy sang a different tune in 1995, says VS". The Hindu. Special Correspondent. 25 July 2013. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  27. ^ "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.
  28. ^ "A K Antony was against Karunakaran's ouster, says KPCC president". The Economic Times. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  29. ^ "Narasimha Rao may be behind conspiracy: Karunakaran son". The Indian Express. 8 October 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  30. ^ January 31, SHEKHAR GUPTA; January 31, 1995 ISSUE DATE; June 14, 1995UPDATED; Ist, 2013 18:52. "Indian intelligence agencies feud, work at cross-purposes bringing embarrassment". India Today. Retrieved 27 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  31. ^ Karunakaran passes away. The Hindu. Retrieved on 23 December 2010
  32. ^ Joe A Scaria (23 December 2010). "Karunakaran passes away, bringing curtains down on era in Kerala politics". The Economic Times. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  33. ^ "Karunakaran cremated with state honours". The Hindu. Special Correspondent. 25 December 2010. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 April 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  34. ^ "Vrindavanam G Venugopal passes away". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  35. ^ "Kerala Chronicles: How one missing student brought down a Congress govt in just a month". The News Minute. 21 June 2017. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  36. ^ "Remembering Rajan, the Innocent Victim of Brutal Emergency Excesses". The Wire. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  37. ^ "How the ISRO espionage scandal brought a CM down". Newslaundry. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  38. ^ "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.
  • The Hindu on Karunakaran
  • News of Death of Karunakaran
  • facebook page of Karunakaran
  • Reporter Tv report on K Karunakaran on YouTube

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by Chief Minister of Kerala
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief Minister of Kerala
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief Minister of Kerala
Succeeded by