Tamil Nadu

Battle of brothers

Print edition : February 21, 2014

M.K. Alagiri addressing the media in Madurai on January 28. Photo: S. JAMES

DMK president M. Karunanidhi with his son and party treasurer M.K. Stalin. Photo: M. VEDHAN

THE long-festering sibling rivalry between M.K. Alagiri and his younger brother M.K. Stalin in the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has erupted again. But this time it has all the makings of a fight to the finish with the suspension of Alagiri from the party’s primary membership and the startling accusations against him by his father and DMK president M. Karunanidhi.

Karunanidhi alleged that Alagiri barged into his bedroom around 6 a.m. on January 24, spoke against Stalin, used foul language and told “me loudly that Stalin will die in three or four months”. Karunanidhi said, “Can any father bear to hear such words? I bore those words because I am the party leader too.” What happened on January 24, he added, represented the height of Alagiri’s inexplicable long-held hatred towards Stalin. Karunanidhi, 90, was Tamil Nadu Chief Minister five times. Stalin is party treasurer and a member of the State Assembly. Alagiri, a Lok Sabha member from Madurai, was a Minister in the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre.

In the latest outbreak of the familial feud, what is puzzling is that although Alagiri was suspended the same day (January 24) from the party membership and relieved of his post as DMK south zone organising secretary, Karunanidhi went public about the incident only on January 28. DMK general secretary

K. Anbazhagan’s statement on January 24, announcing Alagiri’s suspension, had only alleged that he had bitterly criticised the disciplinary action taken earlier against his supporters for their anti-party activities, instructed the cadre not to work for the party and tried to create confusion in the party. There was no reference to the scene that Alagiri created at Karunanidhi’s house.

For the past several years, Alagiri and Stalin have been engaged in a bitter stand-off about who should succeed their father in the DMK. After every round of feuding, Alagiri would declare a truce after being counselled by his mother, Dayalu Ammal, and party elders, but would precipitate matters again a few months later. However, all along, Karunanidhi had made his preference for Stalin clear, grooming him systematically.

On January 6, 2013, the DMK patriarch openly declared, “If I, as an individual, were to get an opportunity, I would propose only Stalin’s name.” This cleared the air in the party and delighted Stalin. A chagrined Alagiri commented sarcastically, “The DMK is not a [religious] mutt.” Despite Alagiri aspiring to the throne, the fact remains that an overwhelming section of the party is with Stalin. As a DMK leader put it, Stalin is “a field worker who tours the State for 15 days in a month, keeps in touch with the cadres and galvanises them” (Frontline, February 8, 2013).

The chasm between Karunanidhi and Stalin on one side and Alagiri on the other widened in March 2013 when the DMK decided to pull out of the UPA government and asked its Ministers in the Union Cabinet to resign. This was not to Alagiri’s liking and he delayed giving his resignation as Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers by a couple of days. On the issue of ties with the Congress, too, the brothers held opposite views. While Alagiri was against snapping ties with the Congress, Stalin was clear about pulling out of the UPA. Alagiri boycotted the DMK general council, the party’s policymaking body, in Chennai on December 15, 2013, where it was decided that the party would not align with the Congress or the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. “With whom will the DMK align then?” Alagiri was said to have asked sarcastically.

The latest round of sparring began on January 5 when Alagiri told a television channel that he did not look upon Vijayakant, actor and founder of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), as a politician and sought to derail the DMK’s attempts to align with the DMDK for the Lok Sabha elections. He declared that he would accept only Karunanidhi as his leader. This came against the backdrop of the DMK trying to get the DMDK to join the DMK-led front, with both Karunanidhi and Stalin declaring that they would welcome Vijayakant into their parlour.

Earlier, Alagiri and his loyalists had plastered Madurai, where Alagiri lives, with posters announcing a rival general council meeting. This was a red rag for the DMK high command. Karunanidhi warned of action against those who were behind the posters. On January 4, Anbazhagan announced the disbanding of the Madurai urban district unit of the party and the appointment of new office-bears on a temporary basis. They were all Stalin’s supporters.

Alagiri’s supporters put up posters again in Madurai. So the DMK, on January 9, suspended five Alagiri loyalists, including P.M. Mannan and Mubarak Manthiri. Alagiri, with his daughter Kayalvizhi, met Karunanidhi in Chennai on January 11. After the meeting, Alagiri said his father inquired about him and his children. He also claimed that the five suspended men were not his loyalists.

What infuriated Alagiri was the DMK high command striking again. On January 23, it suspended five more of his supporters, including M.L. Raj, leader of the Opposition in the Madurai municipal corporation council; Rajendran, DMK Kottampatti union secretary; and Melur A. Muthuvel, a Dalit leader. The suspensions followed the filing of a police case against DMK Madurai rural district secretary P. Moorthy, a Stalin supporter, under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on a complaint from Muthuvel that Moorthy had abused him when he painted a slogan greeting Alagiri.

On January 24, Alagiri and Kayalvizhi met Karunanidhi at his residence at 6 a.m. Alagiri demanded to know from his father why action was taken against five more of his supporters. He alleged large-scale irregularities in the party elections. At this meeting, Karunanidhi alleged, Alagiri said Stalin would die in the next three to four months.

Karunanidhi told Alagiri that the party was of paramount importance to him and warned him that action would be taken against him if he endangered the party’s unity.

Informed sources said Karunanidhi, shocked by Alagiri’s rude behaviour, spoke on the phone to Anbazhagan, Stalin, Kanimozhi (Karunanidhi’s daughter) and former Minister Arcot N. Veerasamy and asked them to meet him. Before they reached his residence, he had prepared a statement to be given to the party organ Murasoli. But Anbazhagan, Stalin and the others told him not to publicise the incident. However, in an enigmatic move, he went public with the incident on January 28. “In what way is it wrong on my part, as the party president, to inquire with and reprimand the person who gave a complaint to the police that action should be taken against Moorthy under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act?” Karunanidhi asked reporters.

On January 26, Alagiri met senior DMK leader Durai Murugan and reportedly told him that he would buy peace. Informed sources said there were no takers in the party for this because it was Alagiri’s wont to keep quiet for a few months and create trouble again.

Meanwhile, when reporters asked Alagiri about rumours that he had behaved rudely with his father, he retorted, “Will anyone beat his or her father?” He alleged that his suspension was a planned move. He had taken up with the party president the issue of the suspension of five more of his supporters and the irregularities in the party polls. “But I did not get a proper reply. I have now been suspended. Democracy is dead in the DMK,” he said.

Asked whether he would field rebel candidates in the Lok Sabha elections, as he did in the 2001 Assembly elections, he predicted that the DMK would lose on its own and there was no need for him to put up rebel candidates. He later denied having said that the DMK would lose on its own. What he said was that the action taken against his followers would have a negative impact on the DMK in the elections. In the surcharged atmosphere that prevailed, supporters of both brothers burnt effigies of the other.

On January 30, his birthday, Alagiri told reporters that neither Karunanidhi nor Stalin had greeted him but that his mother and younger brother Tamilarasu had. He ruled out a compromise unless the DMK high command “unconditionally” cancelled the disbandment of the Madurai urban district unit and revoked the suspension of his supporters.

Informed DMK sources said Stalin was prepared to fight to the finish this time. Almost all the party district secretaries are with him. “Stalin does not do politics from the comfort of his home. He is directing all his energies on the DMK State-level conference to be held on February 15 and 16. After that, he will get his act together,” they said.

T.S. Subramanian

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