What the RK Nagar loss and Kanimozhi’s acquittal mean for DMK family

Alagiri, expelled from the party in 2014, has trained guns on younger brother Stalin.

 |  4-minute read |   27-12-2017
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After the DMK's debacle in the RK Nagar by-election, it was expected that Madurai would soon fire a salvo. Playing true to form, MK Alagiri – party chief M Karunanidhi's elder son who is based out of the city – has trained guns at younger brother MK Stalin within three days of the result.

Alagiri is blunt in his criticism, claiming that the DMK cannot win elections as long as Stalin is the Working President of the party.

Alagiri, who was expelled from the party by his father on Stalin's prodding in 2014, has been waiting for an opportunity to strike back. After the humiliating defeat in RK Nagar, where the DMK candidate Marudhu Ganesh even lost his deposit, Stalin is on the back foot.

Stalin has led the DMK to successive defeats in two major elections - in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and in the 2016 Assembly elections. Photo: India TodayStalin has led the DMK to successive defeats in two major elections – in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and in the 2016 Assembly elections. Photo: India Today

Before this, the heir apparent has led the DMK to successive defeats in two major elections – in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls where it did not win a single seat, and in the 2016 Assembly elections, where Jayalalithaa returned to power.

The DMK was expected to win RK Nagar, riding on the split in the traditional AIADMK votes between party candidate Madhusudanan and rebel TTV Dhinakaran. But that was not to be. Not only did the DMK lose, it failed to retain even half of the 57,000 votes it polled against Jayalalithaa in 2016.

Mincing no words, Alagiri has accused Stalin of overconfidence in the run-up to the by-election, claiming the DMK had no strategy in place. While Alagiri's utterances are not likely to create any ripples within the party, given that the rank and file is stuffed with Stalin supporters, they do embarrass Stalin publicly and underline his inability to lead the DMK to victory, even in a Chennai by-election.

It is likely that Stalin will ignore his elder brother's interviews to the media. He will take refuge under the three-member committee that he has set up to inquire into the reasons for the defeat in RK Nagar. But not everyone is convinced that the probe team will call a spade a spade. The real reasons for the defeat, as Alagiri says, are what the DMK is likely to sidestep in order to protect Stalin.

The DMK believes it lost RK Nagar because it did not distribute money among voters. The excuse is valid to an extent, because it was indeed a tainted election, with the principle players turning it into a "buy-poll". But what Stalin needs to worry about is his strategy.

Fielding a low-profile candidate in a high-profile by-election on the pretext that Ganesh was a local was poor thinking. It raised doubts of a deal between Stalin and Dhinakaran, something the AIADMK has also alleged.

In this election, Dhinakaran mopped up most of the anti-AIADMK votes, which should ideally have come to Stalin. The DMK represented the opposition, supported by the Congress, MDMK, VCK and Left parties. An independent candidate stealing the show despite a united opposition means that Stalin did not have his ears to the ground.

Also, the win in RK Nagar has elevated Dhinakaran to the stature of both the opposition to the AIADMK as well as the new power centre, as migratory season begins in the ruling party.

Alagiri's intervention in this context therefore is significant. After all, he was the architect of the "Thirumangalam formula" of 2009, where he won the by-election from Thirumangalam in Madurai district by virtually buying votes.

The strongman from Madurai, Alagiri had reportedly paid Rs 5,000 per vote in the constituency. A Wikileaks document released in 2011 had said: "From paying to dig a community well to slipping cash into an envelope delivered inside the morning newspaper, politicians and their operatives admitted to violating election rules to influence voters.'"

Alagiri, in a not-so-subtle manner, is now pitching himself to the DMK as the man who has the guile to take on Dhinakaran. What he is telling the cadre is that they need to fight fire with fire.

Alagiri seems to suggest that taking the moral high ground in a constituency like RK Nagar and refusing to distribute money gave the election away on a platter to Dhinakaran.

The question, however, is whether Tamil Nadu wants its elections reduced to a Thirumangalam or an RK Nagar.

The timing of Alagiri's assault is interesting too, as it comes days after half-sister Kanimozhi was acquitted in the 2G case. Most believe that Kanimozhi's stock within the DMK has now gone up and she will expect Stalin to give her a plum post in the party.

Alagiri is waiting in the wings, looking to capitalise on any sign of resentment. Internal strife within the DMK's first family has created problems for the party in the past too, and Alagiri's message to the party now is that this rising son is not walking away into political sunset yet.

Also read: RK Nagar by-poll: How TTV Dhinakaran's victory humiliates both AIADMK and DMK

Writer

TS Sudhir TS Sudhir @iamtssudhir

The writer is a journalist.

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