Chennai, May 20: Former state minister and DMK MP Pasumponn T. Kiruttinan was found murdered near his residence at Madurai early today, casting a shadow over the ongoing organisational polls in the party.
Police sources said Kiruttinan was killed around 6 am when he was returning home after his morning walk. He was attacked by four motorcycle-borne assailants. No arrests had been made till this evening.
Family members rushed Kiruttinan to hospital where he was declared dead.
His body was taken to his native village in Sivaganga district after the post-mortem. Police would not say if the murder was a result of factional rivalry in the DMK or the outcome of any past enmity.
Polls have been deferred in many southern districts, including Madurai and Sivaganga, following the murder.
The killing comes at a time when the 12th organisational polls since the DMK was founded in 1949 were hotting up in the southern districts.
Supporters of M.K. Azhagiri, elder son of party chief M. Karunanidhi, have locked horns there with backers of M.K. Stalin, thought to be the favourite to replace the DMK president. Kiruttinan was one of the senior-most party leaders from south Tamil Nadu.
The soft-spoken Kiruttinan was a Lok Sabha member for two terms between 1967 and 1977 and later served in the Rajya Sabha. He was the minister for highways in the previous DMK government.
DMK party sources here said Kiruttinan had spoken to Karunanidhi just last evening from Madurai.
Kiruttinan had been the DMK’s Madurai zonal convener for more than a year and the two leaders discussed organisational elections in the area.
Kiruttinan was in Chennai two days ago on his 67th birthday. The minister introduced Suba Durairaj, former ADMK MLA from Karaikudi and a recent entrant to the DMK, to Karunanidhi on the occasion.
One of the few party members to have been associated with DMK founder Annadurai, Kiruttinan was the party war horse, having been with the organisation since the anti-Hindi agitation of the 1960s.
A shocked Karunanidhi was heard lamenting: “How can I run the party without people like you'” He said Kiruttinan’s death was a “great loss to the DMK”.
The DMK elections are a large-scale affair, starting from branch units at the village level and spiralling up to the panchayat, block and district levels. Karunanidhi is slated to convene the DMK’s general council in the first week of June after the election process is completed by end-May. The general council is to elect top leaders, including the party president, general secretary and treasurer.
Karunanidhi has been under tremendous strain as age catches up with him. There has been speculation if he will continue as party chief for another three-year term. But party cadres have of late been urging him to continue, with Lok Sabha elections round the corner.
There is no consensus except in Perambalur and Nilgiris on who should fill district party posts. As a result, elections to these posts have been announced for next week by Karunanidhi after consultations with general secretary K. Anbazhagan. Kiruttinan, who was Sivaganga district secretary, was said to be keen to retain the post.
DMK youth wing leader, M.K. Stalin, who is in the US to visit ailing Union minister Murasoli Maran, is heading back to Madurai from Chicago to attend Kiruttinan’s funeral tomorrow evening.