Thiruvananthapuram : Huge crowds thronged the roads outside the hospital where four-time former chief minister K. Karunakaran died and along the route to his home as political leaders cutting across the divide acknowledged his tall stature.
The capital city came to a halt and traffic stopped when the ambulance carrying the body of Karunakaran, who passed away Thursday evening at 5.30 p.m., was taken from the Anathapuri hospital to his home near here.
A large police force found it difficult to control the surging crowds that had gathered at the hospital upon hearing of the demise of the 92-year-old veteran Congressman.
Tears rolled down the cheeks of many people. Senior Congress leaders found it difficult to come near the body of Karunakaran with his ordinary supporters jostling for space to have one last look of the departed leader.
Even Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who rushed to the hospital on hearing of the demise of his long time political adversary, had a tough time trying to come near the body.
'He was one who relentlessly worked for the development of the state and his attachment with the ordinary worker was something which was unique to him only,' said Achuthanandan.
Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy described Karunakaran as one who was a 'practical politician'.
'My relation with him dates 40 years back when I first arrived as a legislator in the assembly and he was the leader of party. Over the years through his hard work and determination he went on to be the senior most leader in our party. His greatest virtue as I see was his closeness with the ordinary supporter of the party and his loss is a great loss for the country,' said Chandy.
As the body reached his home in the city, the skies opened up. However, that did not deter the massive crowd of supporters who were waiting for the body to arrive.
Left Democratic Front convenor Vaikom Viswan, in his message, said that though he had differences of opinion with the departed leader, one aspect of Karunakaran that made him dear to even his adversaries was the way he used to behave with all.
'His behaviour was exemplary in nature and it was this character of his which won him accolades,' said Viswan.
K.M. Mani, who served in all of Karunakaran's four cabinets, said it was amazing to see him handle crises.
'Karunakaran's greatest ability was to come out unscathed from any crisis, and it was the thing that made him a great leader because in times of crisis he always appeared to be a man of great determination,' recalled Mani who heads the Kerala Congress (Mani).
R. Balakrishnan Pillai, a veteran Kerala politician who was close to Karunakaran and was in three of his cabinets, described him as a leader with a vision who used his Delhi connections for the development of the state.
'He was the one who virtually single handedly guided the Congress party when it went through bad times,' said Pillai.
The cremation will be held in his home town in Thrissur Saturday morning, president of the Congress' state unit Ramesh Chennithala told reporters outside the hospital where Karunakaran was admitted since Dec 10.
Friday has been declared a public holidy, and Saturday is a holiday on account of Christmas.
'The body would be taken to his home and Friday morning it would be taken to the Congress party office. From there it would be kept at the Durbar Hall at the State Secretariat and in the afternoon It would be taken through the national highway to Thrissur. The cremation would take place at the same place where his wife has been laid to rest,' a tearful Chennithala said.
The 92-year-old veteran leader's condition deteriorated last week and he was put on the ventilator.
He recovered a few days later and was removed from the ventilator, but his condition worsened Wednesday morning and he suffered a stroke. He breathed his last at 5.30 p.m. Thursday.