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Grand old man who won?t quit

In politics, he is par excellence. At 86, Karunakaran is a hard nut to crack. What keeps the old fox ticking? Plenty of grit, a razor-sharp mind and a fit body. He scoffs at the rumour that he is ready to hang up his boots. He became a RS member in April.
PTI | By Ramesh Babu, Chalakudy, Kerala
UPDATED ON APR 17, 2004 06:34 PM IST

n political machinations, he is par excellence. At 86, Kannoth Karunakaran is a hard nut to crack. What keeps the old fox ticking? Plenty of grit, a razor-sharp mind and a fit body.

He scoffs at the rumour that he is ready to hang up his boots. He became a Rajya Sabha member last week. "Doctors told me recently that at this rate I can live another 25 years," he says.

During the last assembly polls, Sonia Gandhi offered him a helicopter (one of the three party leaders who had this privilege) for a whirlwind tour. But this time no chopper is in sight. The grand old man of the Congress (oldest in the 13th LS) is not worried.

He is really sweating it out this time. His "I, me and mine" politics have dragged both his offspring into the fray: daughter Padmaja is trying her luck in the Mukundapuram LS seat vacated by him and son Muralidharan is contesting a by-election to the Vadkancherry assembly seat to cement his Cabinet berth. So Karunakaran is working overtime.

At the break of dawn, his Mercedes is ready. "Strict regimen keeps me ticking. I have no problems in addressing eight meetings a day," he says while popping multi-coloured capsules with dry date juice. "Wherever I am, I go for a one-hour walk and do two hours of puja. When my wife died 10 years ago, I gave up non-vegetarian food," he says.

As in life, he loves the fast track while on the road.

"See, a doctor's son is a doctor and an engineer's son loves to become an engineer. You tell me what is wrong when a politician's son or daughter becomes one," he asks at a public meeting in Irinjalakuda. The assembled nod their heads half-heartedly.

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