Former Union Minister MK Alagiri addresses the media in Chennai after paying homage to his father M Karunanidhi. (Source: PTI)

DMK Looks Primed For Succession War As Alagiri Claims Support Of ‘Loyalists’

Not even a week has passed since the death of five-time Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, but the party looks primed for a fresh succession war.

MK Alagiri, Karunanidhi’s estranged son and one-time DMK strongman from Madurai, claimed today that all the “loyal” party workers are with him. “All the true and loyal supporters of Thalaivar, Kalaignar (the leader, the artiste—sobriquets used for Karunanidhi) are supporting me...time will provide the answer."

Karunanidhi had expelled Alagiri and his supporters from the party in 2014 at the height of his rivalry with younger brother MK Stalin over establishing supremacy in the state’s main opposition party. Stalin is now the working president of the DMK and looks set to assume its reins.

Dhanya Rajendran, Editor-In-Chief of the south India-focused news portal, The News Minute, said that Alagiri challenging his brother for the DMK leadership was bound to happen, but not so soon. She also said that Alagiri had, in the past, been giving mixed signals about his political future.

“He (Alagiri) is giving mixed signals on what he wants to do—whether he wants to return to the DMK, form a front on his own, or unite with someone like Rajinikanth,” she said, adding, “But he definitely wants to challenge MK Stalin.”

Alagiri, a former union minister, today paid tributes to his father at his grave on the Marina Beach in Chennai and fulminated against Stalin, whom he accused of blocking his return into the DMK and selling party posts.

Even if I'm inclined to rejoin the party, they (Stalin and his supporters) are not in a mood to let me in, said the former Union Minister For Chemicals and Fertilisers. “The DMK will dig its own grave if it does not take me back.”

The Karunanidhi family had presented a united face when the DMK stalwart was fighting for life at a city hospital. Alagiri was present at the hospital and was seen at his father’s funeral. However, close watchers of Tamil Nadu politics expected him to flex his political muscle once Karunanidhi was gone.

The former minister wields considerable influence in the state’s southern districts—where he was the party’s secretary before his expulsion.

When asked there was opposition to his returning to the DMK fold, he shot back, saying “How do I know? You (media) have said I have a good reputation and the cadre likes me... they (Stalin and his backers) have that fear.... there could be a thought that I might become the party chief if I am taken back...that may be the reason.”

The party will crumble if it loses the Lok Sabha polls. Party posts are being sold. Thalaivar will punish them... his soul will not allow them go scot-free.
MK Alagiri, M Karunanidhi’s son & Former Union Minister

Alagiri said several people in the DMK were in touch with Tamil film superstar Rajinikanth, who had said he will launch a political party.

The development comes a day ahead of the DMK’s executive committee meeting that has been ostensibly convened to condole Karunanidhi’s death but where a decision may be taken about summoning the party’s general council for approving Stalin’s elevation.

Though Stalin sits firmly in the saddle and his ascension as DMK president is only a matter of time, Alagiri’s tough posturing may prod his supporters in Madurai and adjoining districts to come out openly against the new party chief.

If that happens, the DMK, which has lost two successive assembly polls and failed to open its account in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, may encounter fresh electoral reverses in the general elections next year.

Alagiri’s influence over the DMK cadre may have waned but Stalin should treat Alagiri’s threat seriously, insisted Narayan Lakshman, Associate Editor at The Hindu. “Another election defeat to the DMK under Stalin is likely to undermine his authority.”

(With inputs from PTI)

Watch the full interview here