CHENNAI: With DMK family members divided in the aftermath of the 2G scam and the assembly poll drubbing, pressure is mounting on party chief M Karunanidhi to change the way DMK is controlled and run. Tensions erupted into a full-blown spat this weekend when the former chief minister left Chennai for a seaside resort following an argument with his younger son and potential successor M K Stalin.
Karunanidhi, usually known to travel with a large entourage of advisors and associates, was only accompanied by his personal secretary K Shanmuganathan, when he left for Mahabalipuram, a resort 40km away. Sources said he packed his bags after a 30-minute altercation with Stalin apparently over the role of his elder son and Union minister MK Alagiri in party politics and daughter Kanimozhi’s involvement in the 2G scam. It ended with Stalin walking out of Anna Arivalayam, the DMK headquarters in the city, in a huff. The rift comes just ahead of a crucial two-day DMK general council meeting beginning July 23 in Coimbatore.
The 87-year-old wheelchair-bound elder, however, returned to the city later in the evening.
Karunanidhi had summoned Stalin to the party HQ to discuss a complaint by members of the DMK women’s wing. Sources said Stalin had kept away from his father for the past week as he was unhappy with his refusal to restructure DMK and elevate him to the top post. “On Thursday, some members of the party’s women’s wing complained to Karunanidhi about Stalin. On being summoned to explain, Stalin is said to have blamed those close to his stepsister, Kanimozhi, and older brother Alagiri for trying to create rift within the family,” said a senior leader. With Karunanidhi defending his daughter and Stalin persisting in his stand, the two are said to have left the party headquarters in an angry mood, said the leader. Later, at his Gopalapuram residence, his older daughter Selvi, is also said to have accused Alagiri of trying to foment trouble within the family.
“In the past, Stalin has never raised his voice against his father,” said a former minister. “But this time, Stalin has become assertive, keen that his father should decide soon on the succession issue,” he added. The succession issue is integral to family dynamics. DMK’s poll defeat and its five-year long hiatus from power within the state is bound to add urgency to it, especially as various factions look to assert themselves in party affairs. Karunanidhi, sources say, is under pressure from the Stalin camp to hand over the reins to his son. But Alagiri supporters are keen for Karunanidhi to continue at the helm, averse to any kind of restructuring at the moment.
The Stalin camp is said to be strategising to get key members of the DMK general council to raise the issue of interference by family members in party affairs. An upset Alagiri is said to have taken up the issue with his father. Also worrying the leadership is the resignation of two key district secretaries. With family members divided over the succession issue and churning within the party rank and file, the DMK general council meet is bound to see some fireworks.