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M Karunanidhi visits Anna Arivalayam after a year

DMK makes final push for RK Nagar constituency.
CHENNAI: Already touted as the frontrunner in byelection to Dr RK Nagar assembly constituency even in the midst of heavy bribing of voters by rival parties, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on Friday made a final and firm push by wheeling in its chief M Karunanidhi to Anna Arivalayam — the party headquarters. The ailing DMK chief had not stepped out of his Gopalapuram residence since October 2016 except for his hospital visits and a brief trip to the office of Murasoli — the DMK mouthpiece that he launched when he was just a teenager to propagate views of the Dravidian movement.

Karunanidhi’s sudden visit to Anna Arivalayam — his favourite place where he used to spend majority of his time a day —has not just infused cheer among the DMK cadre but has also sent out a message to the R K Nagar electorate that all was well with him. DMK working president and Karunanidhi’s son M. K. Stalin, his daughter Selvi and senior leader Durai Murugan accompanied the 93-year-old leader.

The former chief minister’s vehicle, which is customized to accommodate his wheelchair, arrived at the Anna Arivalayam on the arterial Anna Salai at around 9 pm on Friday, instantly sending cadre and general public in the area into rapturous smile. DMK cadres emphatically shouted slogans and affectionately called him “Thalaivar.” After spending 15 minutes at Anna Arivalayam, Karunanidhi left in his vehicle.

Political analysts view the visit of Karunanidhi, a hardcore political animal, to the DMK headquarters as a masterstroke by the Opposition party six days before electorate in RK Nagar exercise their democratic right. Winning RK Nagar is crucial for the DMK since this is the first election Tamil Nadu faces after the demise of charismatic J. Jayalalithaa and the party has managed to rally the entire opposition behind it for the crucial electoral battle. Anna Arivalayam has been Karunanidhi’s third home for the past five decades as he used to drive there early in the morning to read newspapers. Old-timers recall that their leader would spend almost 15 to 16 hours in Arivalayam when he is out of power meeting cadre and party leaders.