Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam General Secretary K Anbazhagan died on Saturday at the age of 97, ANI reported. Anbazhagan had been the party’s general secretary for 43 years.

Anbazhagan died at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, after a prolonged illness. He had been appointed general secretary of the DMK nine times consecutively since 1977. He was a nine-time MLA, one-time Lok Sabha member and former finance minister of Tamil Nadu. Anbazhagan contested state elections till 2011, The News Minute reported.

Anbazhagan was also a close friend of late DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi and late party founder CN Annadurai. Called Peraasiriyar, Anbazhagan worked as a lecturer in Pachayappa College from 1944 to 1957, following which he contested elections.

He had also been a supporter of DMK President MK Stalin’s elevation to the top post. In 2001, he told India Today: “The reins of the Dravidian movement has always been in safe hands – from Periyar to Anna to Kalaignar [Karunanidhi] and now to Stalin and in the future to his son.”

Anbazhagan retained the power to bring new members into the party and remove members till November 10, 2019, when the responsibility was transferred to Stalin.

“DMK condoles the demise of General Secretary K Anbazhagan,” Stalin said in a statement after Anbazhagan’s death. “DMK postpones all its party functions for one week and all DMK flags to fly half-mast for a week.”

Anbazhagan’s body has been kept at his residence in Kizhpakkam.