M K Alagiri
A battle between the late Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) President M Karunanidhi’s sons M K Alagiri and M K Stalin for the reins of the party has been going on for years. But, in the past few years, it became evident that Karunanidhi preferred his younger son, Stalin, for leading the party; the DMK patriarch had expelled Alagiri in 2014 when the fight between the two brothers reached the flashpoint. Still, Alagiri, highly influential in the Madurai region of Tamil Nadu, stayed relevant in the party.
But, the recently held party’s Emergency Exe-cutive Committee meeting, the first after the death of Karunanidhi, sent a message loud and clear to Alagiri: Stalin will lead the DMK. The meeting was attended by around 1,000 DMK functionaries.
When DMK leader Duraimurugan said Working President Stalin would soon take over as president of the DMK, the Kalaignar auditorium thundered with claps. While former assembly speaker and DMK leader Avudiyappan stressed that Karunanidhi had identified Stalin as his political heir, ex-Union minister T R Baalu said “the commander of the army is no more. Nobody has to tell who will be the next commander. Stalin has all the qualities to lead”. The formal announcement of Stalin's takeover is expected next month at the DMK’s General Council meeting.
The development puts a question mark on Alagiri’s relevance in the party and it may force him to float his own outfit. Like the AIADMK, which split into three factions (currently two) after J Jayalalithaa’s demise, the DMK appears heading towards a division.
So, what will happen to Alagiri?
After the death of Karunanidhi, sources in the party said that Alagiri had been mounting pressure through family and party members on Stalin to take him back into the DMK.
Alagiri's supporters and his son Dhurai Alagiri even released a handwritten letter which, they claim, was written by Karunanidhi to Alagiri. In the letter, Karunanidhi purportedly hailed the qualities of Alagiri as a human being and father.
The letter reads, “Those who have read the biography of Pattukottai Alagiri (a veteran lyricist) will remember my son Alagiri. When Alagiri was born, Periyar came down to my residence and held him on his lap. Those images are is still in my heart. Few like Kayalvizhi (Alagiri’s daughter) is blessed with a father like Alagiri. I know lots of people who envy Alagiri, amply described in a poem penned by Kayalvizhi about her father. Alagiri has witnessed many battles, betrayals, oppositions and insults like me. What to do? He is a son like his father. Long live Alagiri.”
Releasing this letter, Alagiri’s supporters claimed Karunanidhi wanted his elder son to be a leader like him. But none of the claims was accepted by Stalin and even DMK General Secretary K Anbazhgan, a contemporary of Karunanidhi.
Amid the uncertainties, Alagiri did not reveal his next move. “I came to my father’s grave to express my feelings and sentiments. You will come to know about it (his political stand) later,” he told reporters after paying homage at his father’s grave at Marina Beach in Chennai.
On the other hand, his supporters put up posters across Madurai, calling Alagiri the “president of Kalaignar DMK”. The posters also showed a new flag, similar to the DMK’s red and black flag but with Karunanidhi's picture. The poster carried a photograph of Alagiri’s son Dhurai.
According to political analysts and insiders, for Alagiri it makes sense to form a party considering the rift is too wide and Stalin may never accept him in the party.
While Alagiri claims his father’s loyalists are behind him, Stalin had ensured posts in the party only to those who swore personal loyalty to him and Alagiri's supporters had been shown the door.