Will the DMK split vertically between the brothers who for decades have played tug-of-war - Stalin and Alagiri ?
That is the question being raised cautiously by some political observers. Ever since M Karunanidhi suspended Alagiri on January 24 on disciplinary grounds, the infamous sibling rivalry between his sons MK Alagiri and MK Stalin has reared its head yet again.
However, two things are different from the previous episodes of sibling rivalry.
Firstly, DMK chief M Karunanidhi has finally acknowledged that sibling rivalry exists, at least from Alagiri’s side. Having maintained all along that the rivalry was a media manufactured story, Karunanidhi recently told the media, 'Alagiri has an inexplicable hatred towards Stalin for a long time.'
The other significant difference in the sibling rivalry saga is the fact that Alagiri is refusing to cow down despite being formally suspended from the party . Instead, he chose to display a show of strength in the form of three MPs - D Napoleon, JK Ritheesh and KP Ramalingam who have been quoted in the media as being behind 'Anjanenjan' (as Alagiri is known).
Does Alagiri have the numbers to split the party? 'With three MPs in his camp, Alagiri is trying to show that he cannot be written off, but although Alagiri may be a claimant to the top post, no one within the party, or even outside, sees him emerging as a leader,' says a senior political editor.
Typically, when a power struggle is on, supremacy lies either in the number of MPs a factional leader can produce as his supporters or the number of district secretaries in one’s camp.
In the latter case, Alagiri may have lost some ground to Stalin, say observers. 'In an organically structured party like the DMK, district secretaries are usually rewarded with a ministerial berth when the party comes to power in the State, and in recent years Stalin has made huge inroads there. He has won the support of key party functionaries in many districts,' points out an analyst. 'Alalgiri, who once lorded over at least ten southern districts now enjoys supremacy only in Madurai city,' adds the analyst.
It is also a fact that while three MPs have aligned themselves with Alagiri, till date there has been so such thing as a permanent allegiance in the Indian political mosaic. The design changes and settles into different patterns often. Stalin himself may at a future date decide to work with rebels in the larger interests of the party.
However, in Alagiri's case experts feel he has probably reached a point of no return. His loyalists have used the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 to file cases against other DMK members.
Anbarasu Ilangovan, a deputy organizer and Alagiri loyalist had pasted posters claiming that a rival 'general council' meet would be held on January 30, which happens to be Alagiri’s birthday.
The DMK's official general council had met on December 15. Alagiri also came down heavily on actor-turned politician Vijayakanth of the DMDK, despite being aware of the fact that the DMK was keen on forging an alliance with the DMDK.
Apart from telling his father that 'Stalin will die in three-four months', Alagiri also made derogatory remarks against the DMK, saying the party would lose in the coming elections in a big way and he need not put up rival candidates.
As the party leader Karunanidhi had no choice but to order the suspension of Alagiri. After all, what is at stake is the future of the DMK, and no one but a strong leader would be acceptable to a party boasting a strong grass root level involvement.
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Bhama Devi Ravi is a Chennai based journalist