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Alagiri No Threat to DMK and Stalin, As Yet

Alagiri No Threat to DMK and Stalin, As Yet

Alagiri’s claims on the Marina sands after paying respects at his father’s yet-to-be built memorial on the site where he was buried, that Karunanidhi’s ‘true loyalists’ were still with him, may require greater proof and evidence on the ground, for anyone to take him seriously.


N Sathiya Moorthy

If someone thought that the late DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s one-time politician-son and former Union Minister M K Alagiri may hold a threat to the party and his younger brother M K Stalin, who is now in control than ever, they may be mistaken.

Alagiri’s claims on the Marina sands after paying respects at his father’s yet-to-be built memorial on the site where he was buried, that Karunanidhi’s ‘true loyalists’ were still with him, may require greater proof and evidence on the ground, for anyone to take him seriously.

It is sure that the afternoon TV news bulletins across the country are not unlikely to highlight Azhagiri’s ‘challenge’. But he could have proven any point, if and only if those Karunanidhi’s ‘trusted loyalists’ on his side have the numbers, to call for a general council meeting of the party, or even call a parallel general council meeting. It is not the case, as the party, including the executive and general council are with Stalin, instead.

It is not because Stalin managed and manipulated those numbers all through. Yes, up to a point, it may have been the case, especially when Alagiri was an active member of the party and remained a thorn in his flesh for future political ambitions. But once Karunanidhi sacked Alagiri from the party, not many have followed in his footsteps, over the past four or five years of ‘enforced silence’ on Alagiri’s part.

Alagiri’s best chances evaporated when Karunaidhi became irretrievably bed-ridden close to two years ago, when then AIADMK Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was fighting for her life. Karunanidhi had sacked Alagiri, not because he had challenged either Stalin or even him within the party, but went public with his desire and prediction that the DMK was doomed.

Moods and methods

DMK cadres knowing Karunanidhi’s moods and methods may not be in any mood themselves, to accommodate Alagiri any more, especially since Karunanidhi, when he was relatively hale and in control of his senses, did not yield to other family members’ purported pressure tactics to restore him.

Karunanidhi not having yielded in his time, there is little that the cadre would want to do with Alagiri, at least until another day, when Stalin may be seen as wanting in larger voter-acceptance, whatever the reason and circumstances.

The cadres, especially in the Azhagiri-controlled southern districts, were elated that in him they had a regional satrap, who was good in ‘pro-active’ politics at the grassroots level. Against this, Stalin was measured and methodical, where he would not cross the invisible Lakshman Rekha that his father had drawn in his own mind, for other party leaders to cross. Alagiri often violated it with gay abandon, whereas Stalin would refuse to do so, even if pressured.

All of it was when the DMK was in power in 2006-11. But when the party lost power and AIADMK’s Jayalalithaa returned to the centre stage as Chief Minister, Alagiri was nowhere to be seen.

Leave aside the front-line, he was not even there at the rear, when cadres needed the protection of the party, especially in those very same southern districts, where some of them may have exceeded the brief under his ‘protective cover’.

Value-based politics?

Stalin did not promise any cover of any kind to anyone, and the cadres now understand that he meant business, and understood his limits and limitations in state politics, possibly going back to his days as a ‘victim of Emergency’, which not many of them knew from personal experience.

Not only that, they also see in Stalin, someone who has matured with time, and someone who wants to re-introduce pre-Dravidian ‘value-based politics’ in the 21st century Tamil Nadu.

If the non-cadre voter’s choice is the DMK – and that is a big ‘if’ still – then Stalin is the man they will vote for, and not certainly Alagiri. Over the past decade, Stalin has conducted himself with dignity (other than on select occasions, when he appeared in a torn shirt outside the State Assembly, post-Jayalalithaa).

More recently, the way Stalin handled the ‘political crisis’ flowing from the AIADMK state government’s approach to the request for allotting a Marina burial site for Karunanidhi has been appreciated by many sections of the state’s population. Those that had been habituated to concluding that the DMK cadres would take to the streets and resort to violence were pleasantly surprised when there was none of it.

Instead, what they saw was a heated court case, at the end of which the Madras High Court granted the plea. Ahead of it, Stalin was seen taking the entire family and party into confidence, when they together met with Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami with the request, but to no avail.

Insiders claim that when the crisis was beginning to precipitate on earlier days, Stalin was believed to have sent out repeated messages down the line for emotive cadres not to take law into their hands, but to let law take its course.

Trial balloon, but...

Alaigiri’s is a trial balloon and is possibly timed for the special meeting of the party’s executive, called by Stalin for Tuesday post-Karunanidhi. Indications are that the meeting would only pass resolutions honouring Karunanidhi without taking up any controversial matter on record.

Even before Karunanidhi’s death, the party general council had been called, purportedly to anoint Stalin as DMK boss, if only to give him adequate powers to negotiate parliamentary poll alliance and seat-sharing. It is unclear if that meeting will take place now, or later – though neither may be linked to the Alagiri threat.

However, in the light of Alagiri’s pre-emptive moves, party General Secretary K Anbazhagan, a year or so older to Karunanidhi, may allow himself to be persuaded to stay on. If not, any internal trouble within the DMK was likely to come to the fore only with Stalin’s choice for Anbazhagan’s successor, which move he is believed to have stalled on the track, when he called on the latter a day after Karunanidhi’s funeral, along with senior colleagues.

If stone-walled at this stage, Alagiri may seek to harass the party and embarrass the Stalin leadership by fielding ‘Independent’ candidates in the two Assembly by-polls later this year, as he did in elections 2001, when the party was in power, leading to the DMK’s defeat in 10-15 seats in the southern districts under his control.

Of the two, native Tiruvarur had returned Karunanidhi with a record, 68,000-vote margin in 2016 elections. AIADMK incumbent A K Bose of Thiruparankundaram in Madurai district had died of a heart-attack only days before Karunanidhi’s death.

When in the party, Alagiri as the Organising Secretary for the southern districts, had been in charge, especially of Madurai, where he relocated in the early 90s. When he was out of the party after being sacked once earlier ahead of 2001 polls, he had fielded independents in some constituencies in and around Madurai, even when Karunanidhi was around, contributing by vote-margin, to the defeat of official party candidates.

Yet, Stalin is caught in a Catch-22 situation of the ‘heads-you-win, tail-I-lose’ kind. If he shuns Alagiri, his camp may become a political nuisance for the time to come, providing meat for the media, thus harassing the party from the outside. If Stalin and the party yields to Alagiri’s tantrums, which they are, then they may have to face the forgotten criticism of ‘family rule’ that they have been able to ‘bury’ with Karunanidhi, and face voter-revulsion of the 2011 kind.

(The writer is Director at Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation. Views are personal)

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