India's two national parties, Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition Congress, have little presence in Tamil Nadu, a state of almost 70 million people where politics have been dominated by the DMK and Jayalalithaa's AIADMK.
Karunanidhi, who wrote scripts for Tamil cinema before entering politics, faced allegations of corruption and nepotism.
#03:50 PM: Stalin requests CM Palaniswami for a place along Marina beach: DMK working president MK Stalin has reportedly requested Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami for a place along the Marina beach in Chennai, where they can build a memorial for the ailing DMK chief Karunanidhi. "He's been a witness to everything that's happened in the state in the past six or seven decades", newspaper columnist Bhaskaran Krishnamurthy earlier told the BBC.
He founded the first student wing of the Dravidan Movement- Tamil Nadu Tamil Manavar Mandram and also started a newspaper- Murasoli on Aug 10, 1942.
It wouldn't be until 1989, two years after MGR's death that Karunanidhi would step back into the Chief Minister's chair.
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Tributes have poured in from around India, a clear indication of the stature of the Tamil leader on the federal scene. "I will never forget this day in my lifetime", said the 67-year-old, whose fans credit him with contributing to a huge DMK victory in 1996 with a comment that was a snub to AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa.
When Mr Annadurai died in 1969, Mr Karunanidhi, then in his 40s, took over leadership of the DMK.
Riding on an anti-incumbency wave, Karunanidhi became Chief Minister for the fourth time in 1996.
In his long political career, if there could be one single issue that has continued to trouble Karunanidhi and his party, politically, it is corruption charges. His three wives were late Padmavathy, Dayalu and Rajathi. Kanimozhi who Karunanidhi declared as his literary heir is a second term Rajya Sabha MP and DMK's women wing secretary.
His popularity had not waned even though he handed over the reins of his Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party to his son M.K. Stalin.