CHENNAI: For DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s elder son and Union Minister for Chemical and Fertilisers M K Alagiri, becoming the party chief will perhaps remain a dream, if one goes by the stand the party high command has taken in recent times. A few days ago, party general secretary K Anbazhagan, through a statement addressed to his partymen cautioned that the selection of candidates for the Sankarankovil bypoll would be done by the party chief himself and that no recommendations will be entertained. Clearly, this was directed towards Alagiri, the south zone organising secretary of the party (Sankarankovil constituency comes under Tirunelveli District in south Tamil Nadu).
The decision on choosing a candidate for Sankarankoil would be dictated by several dynamics, especially because the constituency has been a stronghold of the AIADMK since 1996. The communication from the party general secretary noted: “The candidate’s selection will be made after discussing the prevailing conditions with the candidate concerned and party functionaries for local units from Tirunelveli district.”
The succession storm in the Karunanidhi household has been brewing ever since 2009 when Alagiri, for the first time, expressed his desire to contest for the party chief’s post. Cornered, Karunanidhi announced that he would continue as the party chief, putting in abeyance the succession plan. For over two years, the succession issue hit the headlines on and off causing considerable embarrassment to the DMK chief.
Recently, Karunanidhi made his intentions clear in a February 3 statement that he would be proud if Stalin succeeded him. A magazine survey pointed out 58 per cent of people in the state preferred Stalin as Karunanidhi’s successor over Alagiri. After Kanimozhi’s Tihar jail stint and corruption allegations against Alagiri, Stalin seems to be his father’s best bet to restore a party felled by corruption and nepotism.
Ever since the regime change in Tamil Nadu, Alagiri’s stars seems to have turned hostile. He was summoned by Madurai Collector U Sagayam on December 23 last year to explain as to how he silted up a water channel in a rural pocket of Madurai where the trust run by his family had built an engineering college. The only respite could be that no case was registered against him, but that is hardly any relief, for in August 2011, a temple priest lodged a complaint against Kanti, Alagiri's wife, for allegedly usurping a piece of land belonging to a temple trust.
All of Alagiri's aides including Pottu Suresh, Attack Pandi, Essar Gopi, Thalapathi and Jeyaraman, except for former DMK MLA P Moorthy, were arrested on charges of heinous offences, including murder, criminal intimidation and land grabbing.
Alagiri, desperate to project insouciance, asserted on his arrival in Chennai from Kuala Lumpur that he would gladly accept the party chief’s post if it was given to him. Alagiri’s words pertaining to his ambition for the party chief's post evoked sharp reaction from the party. The party indirectly got to him by hitting out at the media. They issued a two-page rebuttal admonishing the media for carrying out what it called a campaign to incite infighting within the party. It reads: “They portray as if Alagiri is vying for the party chief’s post and it is not true.” This, too is viewed as a loud and clear signal from the party leadership that it was never keen to make Alagiri its chief. It is perhaps time Alagiri stops squabbling over the party chief's post and starts rebuilding the party in the south.
Ironically, it is Alagiri’s campaign and party management in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections (the DMK bagged all the 10 seats in south Tamil Nadu) and the many by-elections between 2006 and 2011 that established him as a leader. All eyes now would be on the Sankarankoil bypoll to see if Alagiri can weave his magic again.