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Uncertainty over leadership in DMK

Uncertainty over leadership in DMK
PM Narendra Modi pays his last respects to DMK chief M Karunanidhi at Rajaji Hall, in Chennai. The Indian national flag flies half mast at Parliament, following the demise of DMK chief M Karunanidhi, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)
Chennai, Aug 8 (PTI): | Publish Date: 8/9/2018 4:04:09 AM IST

 Will a bitter succession war erupt in the DMK again, or will M K Stalin, whom M Karunanidhi anointed his successor in his lifetime, continue to hold sway over the party?

This is the question the DMK workers are asking themselves as they prepare for life in the party after the death of their “Thalaivar” (leader) who held a vice-like grip over the organisation for half-a-century as its chief. M K Alagiri and M K Stalin, the two sons of the DMK doyen, have been at loggerheads for years now before the former was expelled from the party in 2014, after a stint as a union minister in the UPA government.

Before his expulsion at the height of his succession battle with the younger sibling, Alagiri, known for his mercurial temper, had famously questioned if the DMK was a “mutt” where the pontiff could anoint his successor, an apparent reference to their father.

Alagiri, in political exile since his expulsion and living in faraway Madurai, was with the family during Karunanidhi’s last days as he battled for life in a city hospital, and a senior DMK leader said there was no chance of the party getting caught in a succession battle again.

Asked if Stalin will formally take over the reins of the party now without a hurdle, he replied in the affirmative, insisting due steps will be taken for his ascension to the top party post soon. However, political observer and veteran journalist Shyam Shanmugaam does not share the DMK functionary’s view.

“According to me, it (succession battle) will start immediately. The fight between brothers will never end. However, Stalin should do inclusive politics,” he said. “That (succession row) will happen. The ruling BJP’s agenda is to weaken the regional parties. Now they will try to weaken the DMK as Karunanidhi has gone and before him the late J Jayalalithaa. They were the binding force in DMK and AIADMK,” says Shanmugaam. A close watcher of Tamil Nadu politics, he feels Alagiri will now demand his due. “He will demand his right. He is also Karunanidhi’s son. He was instrumental in the DMK’s victory in southern districts when the party came to power last time,” he said.

He said when Karunanidhi decided to send Alagiri to Madurai to manage the local edition of a party mouthpiece, he was grooming him as a “future prospect” for the party.

Shanmugaam said Alagiri’s appointment as organisation secretary for southern districts enabled the former union minister wield considerable clout in those parts of the state.

To avert a succession battle, Stalin should adopt a statesman-like approach of his father and give Alagiri and step sister Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP, a greater say in party affairs.

Though the sibling rivalry for control of levers of power in the organisation was present for a long time, it came out in the open in January 2014 when Karunanidhi said Alagiri had talked about the death of Stalin in three months, a charge the Madurai strongman dismissed as baseless.

Stalin was a clear favourite of Karunanidhi as he diligently worked his way up the DMK hierarchy, holding party posts since his youth. He was the party’s treasurer and youth wing secretry for three decades.

Alagiri, on the other hand, lay in the background. It was only in 2009, after the Tirumangalam bypoll victory of the DMK in Madurai, that Alagiri was named the party’s south zone organising secretary. He faced allegations of ditributing cash to voters during the bypoll.

When Stalin embarked on an aggressive campaign for the 2016 Assembly election with his voter outreach programme “Namakku Naame Vidiyal Meetpu Payanam” (We for ourselves, journey to retrieve the dawn), Alagiri called it a “comedy show.” Recently, Alagiri asserted true party workers were only with him and taunted Stalin and his supporters. He had even questioned Stalin’s leadership in the wake of the DMK’s drubbing in last year’s RK Nagar assembly bypoll in Chennai where the party candidate forfeited his deposit against winner AMMK’s TTV Dhinakaran. Alagiri had claimed after the defeat that the DMK cannot win any election under Stalin.

“Not just the RK Nagar bypoll, the DMK will not henceforth win any election. There is no chance of that as long as this working president (Stalin) is there,” he had said.

DMK announces week long mourning

DMK tonight announced a seven day mourning for its departed party chief M Karunanidhi and said party flags would fly at half-mast during the period.

Hailing its leader as a “historic hero” who reigned supreme as party president for half a century since July 1969 and as Chief Minister for five terms, the DMK said in a release that all party programmes and events stand postponed for a week.

Party cadres flocked to Karunanidhi’s Gopalapuram residence in droves to pay homage to their leader and police had a tough time in regulating the surging crowd.  Thousands of DMK workers accompanied Karunanidhi’s body as it was brought from Kauvery Hospital at Alwarpet to his residence. Meanwhile, shops and commerical establishments in the city, including in the busy T Nagar here, downed shutters and the city wore a deserted look soon after the announcement of Karunanidhi’s death.

Suburban trains and buses witnessed comparatively fewer commuters since evening. Several schools here too had sent text and voice messages to parents asking them to take their wards home ahead of the closure of regular school working hours.

Mourning in Puducherry extended to 7 days

The Congress government in Puducherry today extended three-day mourning to seven days following the death of DMK leader M Karunanidhi.

A cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister V Narayanasamy took the decision to extend the period of mourning to seven days instead of three as announced earlier.

The chief minister told reporters after the meeting that all government functions during this period stand cancelled as a mark of respect to the DMK leader, who breathed his last in a private hospital in Chennai yesterday.

Narayanasamy said a bronze statue of Karunanidhi would be installed in the union territory as per a decision taken by the cabinet.

The Kottucherry-Tirunallar bypass road in Karaikal, an enclave of the union territory of Puducherry, would be named after the late DMK leader, he said.

The cabinet earlier paid glowing tributes to Karunanidhi and recalled his services for the welfare of the downtrodden and backward sections.

 


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