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Nedunchezhiyan dies of heart failure


By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI, JAN. 12. Former Tamil Nadu Finance Minister and AIADMK chairman, Mr. V.R. Nedunchezhiyan, died of heart failure at a private hospital this evening.

The 79 year-old Dravidian movement leader was admitted to the Apollo Hospitals after he complained of breathing difficulties. He became critical yesterday and he was put on a cardiac support system with balloon. However, there was no improvement in his condition and the end came at 7.20 p.m.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Visalakshi Nedunchezhian, and a son.

Expressing grief, the AIADMK general secretary, Ms. Jayalalitha said in the death of Mr. Nedunchezhian, the Dravidian movement had lost its grandeur and the memory of the late leader would ever remain embedded in the history of Tamil Nadu.

The party will observe a three-day mourning from tomorrow when the party flag will be flown at half mast. Later in the night, the body of Mr. Nedunchezhian was moved to his residence in Seethamma Colony in the city where it will be kept for partymen and others to pay their last respects. The cremation will take place on January 14.

Ms. Jayalalitha, who paid floral homage, said the demise of Mr. Nedunchezhian was an irreparable loss to the AIADMK. He had dedicated himself totally to the growth of the AIADMK.

She felt anguished over the loss of her ``elder brother''. She hailed him as an embodiment of the Dravidian movement and its cherished ideals. He stood as an undaunting figure when the party faced challenges and crises.

He left an indelible mark in the portfolios of finance, education, revenue and industries handled by him during his ministerial tenure. One of the ``five towering leaders'' of the Anna era, Mr. Nedunchezhian, she said, was not only her political mentor but an intimate friend of MGR and he will be ever remembered in the history of Tamil Nadu''.

She said during his last days, Mr. Nedunchezhian was expressing to her and his close friends his anguish over the acts of the present day rulers in humiliating him by hauling him before courts.

Earlier in the day, Ms. Jaylalitha, cutting short her stay in Hyderabad, arrived in the city and visited the hospital to enquire about Mr. Nedunchezhian's health. According to the hospital Chairman, Dr. P.C. Reddy, Mr. Nedunchezhian ``emotionally responded with tears'' when Ms. Jayalalitha told him that the entire party was behind him and wished him speedy recovery.

The Governor, Ms. Fathima Beevi, the Chief Minister, Mr. M. Karunanidhi, and leaders of various political parties condoled his death.

Born at Thirukkannapuram near Pattukottai on July 11, 1920, Nedunchezhiyan was initiated into politics during his days at the Annamalai University. He joined the Dravidar Kazhagam in 1944, but, along with C.N. Annadurai, moved over to form the DMK in 1949. Under the leadership of Annadurai, he served as the deputy general secretary from 1949 to 1955, as general secretary from 1955 to 1961, and as chairman of the DMK general council from 1961 to 1969.

Elected to the Tamil Nadu Assembly in 1962, he became the Leader of the Opposition. When the DMK was voted to power in 1967, he was made number two in the Cabinet by Annadurai.

After Annadurai's death in 1969, Nedunchezhiyan was the acting Chief Minister for a brief while before Mr. M. Karunanidhi was sworn in. He continued as the number two in the Karunanidhi cabinet too (1969 to 1976).

However, after the dismissal of the DMK government, he quit the DMK and formed his own party, the Makkal DMK, along with another senior DMK leader, Sathyavani Muthu. But, a year after the AIADMK came to power in 1977, he merged the Makkal DMK with the AIADMK.

In the MGR cabinet he served as the Finance Minister from 1980 to 1987. During the period of MGR's hospitalisation in 1984-85, Nedunchezhiyan presided over State Cabinet meetings. After MGR died in 1987, he was made the acting chief minister. He lost out to MGR's widow, Janaki Ramachandran, in the race for the chief ministership.

He remained in the Jayalalitha faction of the AIADMK for some time, but following differences with the leadership, he was expelled in August in 1988. He contested the 1989 Assembly election as part of a Group of Four. However, he returned to the unified AIADMK under Ms. Jayalalitha in October 1989.

From 1991 to 1996, he was the Finance Minister in the Jayalalitha government holding, once again, the number two position in the Cabinet. Despite a split in the party in 1998, he remained a Jayalalitha loyalist for the rest of his life.

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