The war in the DMK first family has been simmering since the passing away of M Karunanidhi. It escalated after ousted Alagiri's pleadings to rejoin the party failed to cut any ice with younger brother Stalin. Failing to make a breakthrough, Alagiri on Wednesday mounted his mega show of strength with a silent rally at Marina Beach in Chennai. It was a successful rally in an attempt to prove his relevance, with some 10,000 supporters joining the two-km-long march. Earlier too, there were instances where Alagiri proved his relevance and strong support for him ever since the family feud in the DMK began.
In 2016, given the cyclical nature of electoral outcomes in Tamil Nadu, it was the turn of the DMK to enjoy power for the next five years. But the then Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa, with a clever strategy, pipped the DMK to the winning post. The margin was close, a mere two percentage points in vote difference between the AIADMK and the DMK. Jayalalithaa sprung a superior strategy and got vote against her splintered in many directions and scraped through, albeit the numbers in assembly gave her absolute majority.
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The War in the DMK Family
One of the reasons for the electoral defeat of the DMK, which was guided by its patriarch M Karunanidhi’s chosen political heir MK Stalin, were its inability to forge alliances with forces ranged against Jayalalithaa. In fact, Stalin had by 2016 taken complete control of the party organisation and his brother was expelled from the party by his father just before the Lok Sabha general elections in 2014.
A smarting Alagiri then took his revenge when he frustrated the DMK by fielding candidates in the Assembly elections and ate into what could have only been DMK vote. In an election where at least 10 seats were won with a margin of less than 500 votes, Alagiri showed he was relevant. Besides where were another 10 assembly seats that saw margin of victories that were narrow.
As Alagiri has some support, in southern districts, his nuisance potential was immense as Stalin and DMK found out. With this playing in the background, it comes as no surprise that Stalin refused to entertain any pleas of his sisters on behalf of Alagiri to be allowed to rejoin the party. So, Alagiri mounted the mega show of strength in a rally in Chennai on Wednesday.
The estranged elder brother had pleaded with Stalin to take him back into the party. But a close associate of Stalin told NewsNation that “the door is firmly shut” and there was no question of taking him back into the party.
Every supporter interviewed by media persons had only one request: that Annan (Alagiri) be taken back into the party. Alagiri himself told media persons that he wanted to join the DMK to strengthen the party ahead of elections. “I am ready to work under Stalin’s leadership,” he had said but to no avail. In fact, Stalin had ordered party leaders and cadres not to have anything to do with his elder brother or his activities.
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Which is why a DMK Chennai city functionary M Ravi was suspended for receiving Alagiri at the Chennai airport on Wednesday morning. Even Alagiri knows that as far as the DMK was concerned, it was a closed chapter, but he still has to make a show of it to stay relevant in Tamil Nadu politics. Helping him do just that were forces opposed to a resurgent DMK. The party sources suspect the BJP, the AIADMK and even rebel AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran to have supported Alagiri to weaken the DMK.
It may be recalled that even in 2014 after Alagiri was expelled from the DMK, many leaders of political parties like the BJP, VCK and even Congress had called on him in Madurai. Alagiri had then also met superstar Rajinikanth, sparking of rumours, but it was only in connection with a film deal.
The importance of being Alagiri was very clear.
In multi-cornered assembly election contests – in Tamil Nadu there are at least six parties in fray and three more getting added in future assembly elections – any person with say few thousand supporters here and there can make or mar the chances of candidates. Political analyst Prof Ramu Manivannan of Madras University believes that even after depletion of strength, Alagiri could be having 500 to 1000 supporters in different assembly segments and could cause damage to the DMK.
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In 2001, Alagiri had fielded rebel candidates and sabotaged the chances of the DMK in several constituencies that added to the victory of the AIADMK in the elections then.
What was predicted by political analyst Cho Ramaswamy in 2014 general elections, “This family feud will cost the DMK dear,” could be as relevant today as it was then. In 2014 Lok Sabha general elections, the DMK drew a blank.
But in the last four years, Stalin has covered much more ground and captured the DMK completely. And today, there is no more any confusion. A confident looking and sounding Stalin has brushed aside Alagiri and his challenge and is concentrating his energies on mounting a big challenge to the AIADMK and the BJP-led central government. As per the assessment of senior DMK leaders, Alagiri is now a spent force.
So, for the present, the doors are completely shut for Alagiri's return to the DMK.