DMK Succession War: Alagiri mounts challenge against Stalin for Karunanidhi’s political legacy

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New Delhi:

It seemed as if MK Alagiri, elder brother of DMK working president MK Stalin, was only waiting for their father to breath his last to mount a challenge to his brother’s leadership and stake a claim to his father’s political legacy.

Even as the family is yet to come out of mourning for the demise of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi on August 7, Alagiri sounded the bugle for war against his younger brother Stalin with caustic remarks that question his leadership abilities and dismissed him as a leader of consequence.

Alagiri, considered the DMK strongman in southern districts, was at one time a very powerful satrap of the party with his own fiefdom – with a finger in every pie of business and political activity that took place in the region.

Now not even a primary member of the DMK, after he was expelled from the party for anti-party activities in 2014, Alagiri as such cannot do much of a damage to the chances of Stalin who is about to be formally elected as the DMK president, in due course. On Tuesday, the DMK is to meet for a crucial executive council meeting in Chennai to decide the schedule for holding the general council which alone can elect a new leader of the party.

Alagiri timed his attack on Stalin and mounted his challenge as a comeback bid into the party at a time when the DMK can ill afford to lose any of its political clout and workers, especially in the southern region ahead of the two crucial bye-elections – at Thiruparankundram and Tiruvarur – that will be held along with general elections to Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh shortly.

“Stalin is not working,” was his cryptic remark to a question from a scribe on the elevation of Stalin as the president from the post of working president that he currently holds.

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“It was seen in Chennai bye-election, how DMK lost its deposit in RK Nagar bye-election that TTV Dhinakaran won,” Alagiri told media persons in Chennai after paying homage to his father at his memorial at Marina Beach in Chennai.

And it is in the TTV region that the two bye-elections would be held shortly and the DMK would like to avoid any erosion in its ranks ahead of such a crucial test of Stalin’s leadership. “Taking back Alagiri into party is just not possible,” said a DMK leader on condition of anonymity. He is speaking out of frustration, the leader said echoing the sentiments of many in the party.

Alagiri is trying to compare his past track record of success in southern region against the seeming failure of Stalin in bye-elections as also in the 2016 general elections and the previous 2014 Lok Sabha general elections. Alagiri had also put up rebel candidates in some assembly seats to spite Stalin and this may have some impact in DMK’s loss.

In fact, just before 2014 polls, Alagiri had predicted that the DMK would not win more than two of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu.

“His challenge to Stalin will come to a nought, as it must be remembered that it was Karunaidhi who himself expelled him from the party. Besides, Karunanidhi had anointed Stalin as his political heir and allowed to take full control of the party, by placing his key trusted aides and replacing all Alagiri’s men. Besides, all the henchmen of Alagiri were ‘neutralised’ by tough police action by the Jayalalithaa government.

“Most of the Karunanidhi supporters and cadres are with me. Only the money minded people in party positions are with Stalin,” Alagiri had said.

His outburst is being dismissed as ‘false bravado’ and described as an attempt to stay relevant in the state politics. All his attempts to enter the DMK when Karunanidhi was alive. So not many in the party are going to go along with Alagiri, said a political analyst.

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“Alagiri may cause some perception damage but cannot do any collateral damage to either Stalin or the DMK,” said perception expert and political strategist John Arokiaswamy.

Alagiri’s frustration also stems from the fact that he tried to re-enter the party and made several attempts to persuade his father. But to no avail. Even now, he is trying to work this around through Selvi, his sister, to soften Stalin and facilitate his comeback bid. But this divide within the DMK first family is something that its rivals – AIADMK will be thrilled about. But it is hardly in a position to take advantage over this as it itself is a house divided.

The BJP may want to fish in DMK’s troubled waters, but Alagiri would know in Tamil Nadu he has future only if he is with the DMK.

The BJP is waiting and watching the unfolding drama in DMK first family with glee but would refrain from making any comment other than saying this was an internal matter of the DMK. “Everyone knows, DMK is a party of a family and not of cadres.” But it is shameful that brothers are fighting it out less than a week of their father’ death for his legacy," BJP leader P Selvam said.

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