Thiruvananthapuram | Kerala Assembly Speaker and former two-time minister in the A K Antony cabinet, G Karthikeyan passed away following multi-organ failure at a hospital in Bengaluru this morning. The 66-year-old Karthikeyan, who had been admitted to the HCG Cancer Centre in Bengaluru for Hepato Cellular Cancer (liver cancer) some days ago, had taken expert treatment at US-based Mayo Clinic in October last year.
According to hospital sources, his condition deteriorated due to multi-organ failure and he died at 10.30 AM. He is survived by his wife M T Sulekha and two sons. The state government has declared a seven-day mourning as a mark of respect to the departed leader.
Holiday was declared for all government offices, educational institutions, public sector undertakings, cooperative banks and institutions coming under the purview of Negotiable Instrument Act this afternoon. Hundreds of party workers and relatives received the body at the airport which was brought here by a special flight this evening.
The body, which is now kept at the Speaker’s official residence here, will be brought to the Assembly tomorrow morning for the legislators to pay their last respects. It will be later taken to the Congress headquarters Indira Bhavan, Darbar Hall, a government school in his constituency Aryanad and his ancestral home at Sasthamangalam before being cremated tomorrow evening.
Popularly known as ‘GK’, Karthikeyan entered politics as a leader of the Kerala Students Union. A known confidant of late veteran Congress leader and Chief Minister K Karunakaran, Karthikeyan stood by him in 1978 when many senior leaders left the party over differences. However, when Karunakaran started grooming his son Muraleedharan into party politics, Karthikeyan led the ‘Thiruthalvadi’ movement (loosely translated as reformist group) within the party to protest this move.
Karthikeyan later became minister in the A K Antony government twice — in 1995 and 2001. Known as ‘gentleman politician’, Karthikeyan, with his trademark beard, was acceptable to all politicians cutting across party lines. A six time MLA, he had also served as deputy leader of the Congress legislature party in the Assembly, chief whip and chairman of Assembly petitions’ committee.
After the Oommen Chandy government came to power in 2011, he was elected as the speaker of the present Assembly. Karthikeyan courted controversy just after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when he expressed desire to step down as speaker and return to active politics. However, this was not accepted by the party high command which asked him to continue as the speaker.
Soon after this, Karthikeyan was diagnosed with liver cancer and three months later he went to US for expert treatment. After his return from US, he did not attend the last session of the Assembly in December. Karthikeyan had attended the opening ceremony of the 35th National Games here on January 31 after which he fell ill again and was shifted to Bengaluru for advanced treatment.
A well known orator and voracious reader, Karthikeyan was well versed in art, culture and cinema and was a prominent figure in the cultural scenario of the state capital. Expressing shock over his passing away, Kerala Governor P Sathasivam described Karthikeyan as a seasoned leader and efficient parliamentarian who had distinguished himself in several capacities, winning the love and regard of people.
Always a leader of conviction, he will long be remembered for his clean image and cordial disposition. His demise, at the pinnacle of glory, is a great loss to the entire state, he said in a statement here. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said he was ‘deeply saddened’ and ‘pained’ over the demise while veteran Congress leader and former Defence minister A K Antony said the state had lost one of the most capable speakers who could take along both ruling and opposition politicians with him.
KPCC President V M Sudheeran, Opposition leader in the Assembly and CPI-M veteran V S Achuthanandan, CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, state Ministers K M Mani,P J Joseph and Adoor Prakash were among those who expressed grief over the death.
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