What Alagiri hopes to gain from his Karunanidhi memorial rally
The turnout at the event will show how much clout Karunanidhi’s elder son still commands.
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Ever since MK Alagiri’s outburst at the Anna Memorial after the death of his father and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) patriarch M Karunanidhi, the clamor to re-induct him into the party has gained momentum. Videos on social media and posters hailing him as a strong leader have begun to resurface.
By claiming that he will take out a memorial rally to pay homage to Karunanidhi on September 5, Alagiri is trying to sound the bugle of a succession war in the DMK. The rally will be the first show of public rebellion since his expulsion in 2014, where his supporters will march in a silent procession from Anna Statue to Karunanidhi’s Samadhi in Chennai.
Alagiri with his brother and DMK working president MK Stalin at their father Karunanidhi's funeral. (Photo: PTI)
On August 24, Alagiri held a meeting with his supporters in Madurai. More than 300 people took part in the meeting, which was convened to discuss the arrangements and travel plans for the September 5 rally0.
Many of the supporters gathered at the meeting lashed out at the DMK leadership for not re-inducting Alagiri back into the party. Senthil Kumar, a staunch supporter, slammed the DMK for relegating Alagiri to a corner. “Annan [Alagiri] warned the DMK of the faulty selection of candidates for LS polls in 2014. No one listened. The party did not win even one seat. Same was the case with the 2016 Assembly elections. Annan is a force to reckon with and the September 5 rally will prove that,” he said.
Sources in the Alagiri camp say a majority of the cadre for the rally will be from the southern districts o Tamil Nadu. Close aides of Alagiri have reached out to grassroot-level cadre, who are not satisfied with Stalin’s leadership. Speculations are rife that over 10,000 people will participate in the rally from Madurai alone, which is Alagiri’s home turf.
With a dwindling support base, Alagiri’s call for the memorial rally comes as a surprise for many within the party. Since his expulsion, a majority of Alagiri’s supporters have migrated to Stalin’s camp. Since his elevation as the working President of DMK, Stalin has taken a firm control over the party.
In this backdrop, how far can Alagiri be successful? Many aren’t hopeful. Very few have an inkling of Alagiri’s gameplan. His supporters say the immediate task is to prove the strength of the faction. The memorial rally is to be a show of strength that may facilitate his re-induction. The crowd turnout at the rally will indicate how big a threat Alagiri can pose to the DMK.
The DMK, meanwhile, is unperturbed.
While Alagiri was unsuccessful in making a comeback during Karunanidhi’s time, party insiders have ruled out the possibility of the brothers now burying the hatchet.
According to sources, the top leadership of the party shot down Alagiri’s re-induction when some of his supporters made a case for him soon after Karunanidhi’s demise. The DMK leadership has also issued a gag order on party spokespersons against commenting on the Alagiri issue. A spokesperson seeking anonymity said the rally would not make any difference to the DMK.
The Alagiri faction is hoping the turnout at the rally is impressive enough to make the DMK sit up and take notice. (Photo: PTI/file)
Political analysts say Alagiri’s rally would be an embarrassment for the party.
According to senior journalist R Subramaniam, the rally would achieve little more than garner some eyeballs. “Alagiri wants to prove his strength. The rally will not make a difference to the fortunes of the DMK. An upset Alagiri can at best sabotage the chances of the party in 5-10 constituencies. He will play spoilsport in an election where winning margins are slender.”
Could the rally be Alagiri’s last-ditch attempt to claim his place in the party?
“Most certainly,” said political analyst Sumanth C Raman. “The rally in itself will not be a major turning point in Alagiri’s political career. The point to note is that not one senior leader, or even middle-rung leader, of the DMK has announced support for the rally. The turning point would be if Alagiri floats an organisation, and the DMK does badly in the upcoming elections. Then, an opportunity for Alagiri would emerge.”