The death of DMK patriarch Muthuvel Karunanidhi known as Kalaignar has put his family and the party under enormous pressure to keep their fold together given the contradictions and conflicting interests among several family members. Karunanidhi’s son M K Stalin, currently working president, is set to take over as the president of the DMK under a new dispensation of Gen Next.
Karunanidhi’s daughter M K Selvi is said to have initiated efforts to bring about a consensus in the families (Karunanidhi has two wives and six children in all), particularly for unity between Stalin and his brother M K Alagiri, former Union minister and coordinator of DMK’s southern region.
DMK sources said the anointment of Stalin as President, taking over the mantle from his father who held the post for 50 years, is a mere formality now. Although some in the party feel that he should take over sooner than later, Stalin himself does not want to show that he is a man in a hurry. He doesn’t want to show unseemly haste here. The DMK executive committee is scheduled to meet on August 14 but it may confine itself to adopting a resolution condoling the death of its leader. A meeting of the party’s general council may be held only towards the end of the month as per present indications.
DMK circles do not anticipate a threat from Alagiri now, though a few years ago he created a crisis in the party saying that he would contest for the post of president.
DMK circles do not anticipate a threat from Alagiri now, though a few years ago he created a crisis in the party saying that he would contest for the post of president. When Karunanidhi said he would continue as president, Alagiri changed his stand to state that he would stake his claim when MK was not around. This did not go down well with the Stalin camp who were looking for an opportunity to get him ousted. The Stalin camp wanted Karunanidhi to appoint him as president during his lifetime itself so that Stalin would not face any challenge later. However, Karunanidhi, in a way, kept the pot boiling, perhaps not to alienate Alagiri and keep the party united. The tussle for presidentship was thus put off.
However, Alagiri made a mess of his career, with remarks that Karunanidhi was giving undue prominence to Stalin who would die in three months. Karunanidhi quickly showed him the door, expelling him from the party, providing Stalin just the opportunity he was looking for. In 2017, with illness overtaking him, Karunanidhi had to partially pass the baton to Stalin by appointing him as working president.
Stalin, meanwhile had cemented his position including in the south where Alagiri ruled a decade ago as the party’s coordinator for the South Zone, winning over Alagiri’s men, step by step, through his intensive tours to every nook and corner including the launch of the Namakku Naamae programme, which almost brought the DMK back to power.
Alagiri is now a shadow of his former self, having been relegated to the background. DMK sources say Alagiri will keep a low profile and keep away from the glare of politics for some time, and look for a more opportune time to seek rehabilitation or revenge, depending on his options.
Meanwhile, the Selvi initiative is to bring in Gen Next into the party to placate Alagiri, by inducting his son Dayanidhi Alagiri with a minor post, to begin with. However, Alagiri and Dayanidhi are said to be demanding the post of youth wing secretary, with which post Stalin began his ascension in the party.
With Karunanidhi having already expelled Alagiri from the party after his statement for alleged anti-party activities in 2014, it is an uphill task for him to secure an important position in the party even if he is re-admitted. It is said that a compromise would be a post in the youth wing of the DMK for Alagiri’s son Dayanidhi Alagiri. Stalin has not forgotten that he took an important step in his political career when he was made youth wing general secretary in 1984. Karunanidhi indicated then that this was a stepping stone for Stalin, and thus the preparation for success began 34 years ago.
Since then, Stalin has made a steady but sure rise to the top. He is now a six-time MLA having been first elected to the Tamil Nadu Assembly in 1989, after a failed attempt in 1984. It was only after Stalin took over as Mayor of Chennai Corporation that Alagiri raised the banner of revolt against elevation of Stalin. Karunanidhi expelled him from the party. Alagiri put up a fight by supporting rebel candidates against the DMK in the 2001 Assembly elections, and though they did not win, managed to take away about 2 to 3 percent of DMK votes, which also contributed to the defeat of the DMK.
The DMK’s loss of power led to reconciliation with Alagiri but his demands kept increasing as he considered himself senior to Stalin being older. Karunanidhi placated him by giving him an MP ticket and he was appointed Union minister in UPA rule, besides a senior party post of DMK South Co-ordinator. However, at every step, Karunanidhi elevated Stalin too, making him State minister, deputy chief minister, party treasurer and as working president in 2017 when he fell ill. Karunanidhi again removed Alagiri from the DMK after he protested against prominence to Stalin and issued a statement that Stalin would not live long.
Alagiri’s expulsion and Karunanidhi’s ill-health meant that Stalin virtually took over the party, and had his men in all crucial positions, especially as district secretaries. Stalin is now Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly and party working president.
Alagiri’s statement after the RK Nagar by-election loss that the DMK could never hope to win elections with Stalin as leader further widened the chasm.
The Stalin family wants the youth wing secretary post for his son, Udhayanidhi Stalin, an actor, and film producer, who is often seen on party platforms and all important party meetings and is touted as Stalin’s successor in the party. Selvi is trying to work out a patch-up here.
Karunanidhi’s other son, M K Tamialarasu, has kept away from politics and concentrates on his business. However, his son Arulnidhi, has entered the film arena as an actor, and he could be groomed for a political career as well.
Kanimozhi could be on a sticky wicket, though at the moment she is party MP. Being the daughter of Karunanidhi’s third wife Rajathi Ammal, she has to fend for herself without any lobby for her in the second family of Dayalu Ammal.
Murasoli Maran’s sons and Karunanidhi’s grand-nephews Kalanidhi and Dayanidhi Maran, powered by the popular TV channel Sun TV, were sidelined a few years ago after their newspaper Dinakaran published a survey on popularity of DMK leaders which gave a low ranking to Alagiri and Stalin. The Maran brothers are sulking but they have little clout except the support of Sun TV as they continue to face cases. Dayanidhi Maran is no more, the party’s pointsman in Delhi, this post having been informally given to Kanimozhi by Karunanidhi. In the absence of Karunanidhi, Stalin may assign the work of liaison to another MP in Delhi like Trichy Siva in whom he has more confidence, though Kanimozhi will also be around.
Meanwhile, it is not certain if party general secretary and Karunanidhi’s close associate, K Anbazhagan, would like to continue, especially with a junior like Stalin as president. When a few years ago, Stalin’s associates wanted him to be elevated as president just as Mulayam Singh had done for Akhilesh in time, Anbazhagan, though fond of Stalin, said he could not work under anyone his junior. He would rather take a back-seat. That was also one of the reasons why Karunanidhi did not step down in favor of his son.
If Anbazhagan should retire on grounds of ill-health, the DMK could elevate Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, Durai Murugan, as the general secretary.
The DMK seems to be going the AIADMK way after the death of their leaders. While family members of Sasikala have been denied important positions and TTV Dinakaran has been kept out citing Jayalalithaa’s act of dismissing them from the party, Alagiri, once a domineering figure, too has been excluded citing expulsion by Karunanidhi.
The new dispensation could be rung in by the month-end so that it would be in place to celebrate the customary Mupperum Vizha – birth anniversaries of Periyar, Anna and the birth of the DMK in mid-September. That would be a perfect launch pad for the new team.
The DMK is all set to get Stalinised, with Udhayanidhi, to be projected as his successor. The critics can complain about dynasts but the die has been cast, with the succession lines being clear.