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Alagiri alone - Appanasamy - The Sunday Indian
 
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Friday, October 20, 2017
 
 

Alagiri alone

 

The elder brother has lost decisively to younger brother Stalin. Appanasamy analyzes the agony of Alagiri.
APPANASAMY | Issue Dated: April 28, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : P. Chidambaram | M.K Alagiri | DMK | M. Karunanidhi | Jayalalitha |
 

M.K Alagiri, the elder son of DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi, appears lonely, desolate and shocked. If he had read up a bit of Indian history, he would have still been lonely and desolate, but not shocked. More than 300 years before Christ was born, the younger son of King Bindusara vanquished all his elder brothers and became Emperor Ashoka. More than two hundred years before Bahadur Shah Zaffar was exiled in Burma ending the Mughal dynasty in India, one of his more famous predecessors Aurangzeb had usurped the throne from his elder brother Dara Shikoh. Even in modern dynasties, Alagiri would have found similar examples. In the 1970s, when Indira Gandhi was giving the final touches to the Establishment of the Gandhi dynasty in the country, she chose the younger son Sanjay Gandhi to inherit the mantle and the throne. Mercifully, there was no fratricidal battle here as the elder son Rajiv Gandhi had absolutely no interest in anything except flying planes. It is only the inexplicable cruelty of destiny and history that made Rajiv the ruler of India.

Alagiri seems to have lost decisively to his younger brother M.K Stalin in the race for leading the DMK after Karunanidhi. The final nail in the proverbial coffin seemed to to be hammered on March 30 when Stalin chose Madurai, the so-called stronghold of Alagiri, to celebrate his birthday and his anointment as the successor. Barring a few die hard loyalists, Alagiri helplessly watched enthusiastic DMK cadres desert his camp with gusto and embrace Stalin as the new leader. Well before this very public humiliation and sidelining of Alagiri in Madurai, the patriarch Karunanidhi had made it crystal clear to DMK cadres that Stalin would lead the battle against arch rival J. Jayalalitha, the current Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Just in case, Alagiri still nurses some illusions, the DMK has served show cause notices to a few loyal supporters of the elder son for anti-party activities. Their crime? They ostensibly boycotted the March 30th birthday celebrations of Stalin in Madurai as a gesture of support for Alagiri. The rest seem to have got the message loud and clear and have fallen in line.

According to reliable sources in Chennai, Alagiri tried the twin tactics of a virtual and veiled revolt and an emotional appeal to his father. Both seem to have failed. When DMK was deliberating the withdrawal of support to the UPA government over the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, Alagiri seemed to be the sole voice of dissent insisting on continuing the frayed alliance. But to Stalin and the patriarch Karunanidhi, the message from grassroots cadres was unmistakable: it was imperative for the DMK to sever all ties with the Congress for its own political survival. Once the decision to withdraw from the UPA was announced, other ministers belonging to the DMK promptly resigned. Alagiri refused and sent in his resignation separately two days later, after holding meetings with Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. Clearly, that angered his father Karunanidhi even more. Sensing the collapse of his revolt, Alagiri flew down to Chennai and apparently had an emotional meeting with his father. According to sources, Alagiri complained that he was hurt because he was in charge of the southern flank of the party and was not even consulted when the decision to withdraw support to the UPA was taken. Apparently, Karunanidhi bluntly told his son that he never took interest in party affairs and hence  had no right to complain. Karunanidhi seems to have added sarcastically that visiting Chennai and meeting his mother does not constitute party activities.


For seasoned observers of Tamil Nadu politics, the recent speculation over who will inherit the mantle from Karunanidhi seems to be pointless. According to them, the inheritor was decided way back in the Emergency during the 1970s when Stalin led youth DMK cadres against the Indira regime. Stalin was jailed and tortured. Alagiri apparently stayed away from politics at that crucial juncture. Subsequently, Stalin served as a Mayor of Chennai and kept in touch with grassroots party workers at all levels. Even during 2001, when Jayalalitha, after storming back to power had ordered the arrest of Karunanidhi, it was Stalin who faced her wrath rather than Alagiri. According to party insiders, Karunanidhi seems to have noticed how Stalin has always been prepared to go to jail and face troubles as it is considered part and parcel of political life. In contrast, Alagiri prefers to avoid all that. They cite the example of, how Durai, Alagiri's son sent absconding and evaded arrest for more than a 100 days when he was accused of illegal granite mining. DMK sources say Karunanidhi was not happy with it as it created a perception that family members of the DMK had so much earnings that they needed to hide it. The party is very sensitive on this issue after Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi had to spend a long time in Tihar jail in the 2G scam case.

DMK insiders say that Karunanidhi was incensed when he heard reports about his elder son hobnobbing with the likes of P Chidambaram. The DMK still nurses a deep sense of betrayal over the manner in which A Raja and Kanimozhi were treated by the Congress. More important,  DMK leaders know that Congress big shots like Chidambaram are worried because they have virtually no chance of winning Lok Sabha seats without an alliance with either DMK or AIADMK. Given this backdrop, DMK leaders think that Alagiri was allowing himself to be used by the Congress.

So what next for Alagiri? In the bad old days of fratricidal dynastic wars, Alagiri would have faced physical oblivion. But today, he has the choice of avoiding political oblivion. According to party insiders, if he keeps quiet for a while and toes the party line, Alagiri will almost get a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections. But if he chooses to continue his revolt, then all safety nets are off.



appanasamy@sundayindian.com

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017