Stalin strides ahead in DMK power tussle

In the midst of a harsh winter away from power, that nagging question has returned to the DMK: who after M Karunanidhi, elder son Alagiri or younger son Stalin?

The question always comes up when the simmering rivalry between the two brothers breaks out periodically. But this time, it was brought to attention by Karunanidhi himself and also due to the hyper-active schedule of Stalin, hopping from Chennai to Madurai to the UN and London, presenting himself as both the emissary and the face of the DMK.

The latest reason for the skirmish between the brothers is the restructuring of the DMK youth wing, that was launched in 1980 with Stalin as the leader. It is now being reorganised, with care taken to leave out wards of leaders as well as those handpicked by powerful senior leaders. This ostensible democratisation has failed to amuse Alagiri, who openly charged that his recommendations were being ignored.

Three weeks after the outburst, Karunanidhi broke his silence to say he was happy with the way the process was going and that Stalin was "living up to his expectations" — the statements only reinforcing that the younger son was the DMK chief's choice for successor in a party he has led for 43 years.

Stalin too has been making his presence felt — as the leader of the party inside the Assembly, as the leader touring the nooks and corners of the state, as the leader meeting even Alagiri supporters imprisoned by the Jayalalithaa government, and increasingly, as the leader calling on the UPA leadership on behalf of the DMK. He visited the UN recently for the UNHRC hearing on alleged war crimes by the Sri Lankan government while he was in London for a meeting of the British Tamil Forum. He is said to have a command over roughly three quarters of the DMK.

However, that doesn't mean Alagiri's ability to hurt the party's prospects can be or is being dismissed easily. By choosing to go the dynasty way, this is a tiger that Karunanidhi has been riding, and the consequences are perhaps inevitable.

Gopu is a principal correspondent based in Chennai

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