India

Karunanidhi’s death causes succession dilemma for DMK

What remains to be seen is whether Stalin is able to retain his control, given the ill will between Karunanidhi's other other children and Stalin.

M Karunanidhi’s apparent heir MK Stalin broke down as he got to know that the Madras High Court has allowed his father’s burial at Marina beach, in Chennai.

Former Union minister A Raja explained the high court order to Stalin, which triggered celebration among the DMK cadres. They raised slogans praising Karunanidhi as soon as the court pronounced its order.

“The DMK’s plea for the burial of Kalaignar’s body near Anna memorial has been accepted by the Madras high court. The court further directed Tamil Nadu government to ensure and establish a memorial for Kalaignar,” ANI quoted DMK’s lawyer V Kannadasan as saying.

The ill will between Karunanidhi’s nominated successor, MK Stalin, and his other children

When by-elections were held in 2017, with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) split into two factions and each of them putting up their candidates, it was predicted as an easy win for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

But when the results came in, the DMK was in the third position. And party president Karunanidhi’s son MK Alagiri blamed his younger brother and working president of the party, Stalin, for the defeat, “Not just RK Nagar. The DMK will not win any polls till he is at the helm. This would not have happened if Thalaivar (referring to Karunanidhi) had been in charge.”

The comment showed that despite Karunanidhi’s efforts to ensure a smooth family succession to the party’s leadership, the sibling rivalry kept burning. For the longest time,  had been his father’s understudy, the chosen one to eventually succeed.

Karunanidhi had groomed Stalin as the mayor of Chennai, after which inducted him into his cabinet and made him the state’s first deputy chief minister. Stalin was a study in contrast to his elder brother MK Alagiri, who is known to be brash. His supporters had attacked the Madurai office of Dinakaran, a daily owned by his cousins Marans, when it published a survey that didn’t portray him in a flattering light, read a report in Hindustan Times.

“The DMK is the first regional party to win on its own in an Indian state and it has never ever faced a leadership crisis. Unlike the AIADMK, which witnessed leadership crisis, things will be fine for the DMK,” asserted the party’s south Chennai district secretary and former mayor M Subramanian, reports HT. “There is no alternative to our leader Kalaignar, but the only relief is that he leaves Stalin as his political heir,” he said.

Having worked as a Union minister in Manmohan Singh’s cabinet during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) -2 regime, Alagiri can claim administrative experience. But he was expelled in 2014, just before parliamentary polls because of alleged anti-party activities.

The DMK, founded in 1949, will be hoping that the party will be spared the succession chaos that plagued the AIADMK after the death of its founder MG Ramachandran in 1987 and that of J Jayalalithaa in 2016.

Stalin has been functioning as the party’s working president for several years now, in the absence of Karunanidhi, and has also taken all the key decisions.

Alagiri and half-sister MK Kanimozhi, apart from the influential cousins, the Maran brothers, will inevitably have some say on who will control the party. What remains to be seen is whether Stalin is able to retain his control.

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