Why DMK may have self-goaled with Alagiri suspension

alagiriNEW DELHI : Former union minister MK Alagiri’s suspension from the DMK on grounds of “indiscipline” may not just have cleared the line of succession planned by M Karunanidhi, it has also removed the biggest stumbling block in the party’s plans to forge a pre-poll alliance with actor Vijaykanth’s DMDK.
Mr Alagiri, the DMK’s southern satrap, had been at loggerheads with his younger brother MK Stalin, 61, tipped to take over as the party chief once the family patriarch decides to call it a day. But Mr Karunanidhi was emboldened to act against his estranged son only after getting convinced that a tie-up with Mr Vijaykanth was a better bet for his party. The DMDK was born in Madurai, considered Mr Alagiri’s backyard, in 2005, and, over the years, it has developed strong roots in the region. On top of this, Mr Stalin, the DMK treasurer, has also been making a concerted bid to chip away at his elder brother’s support base in the southern districts, and has successfully weaned away many of his loyalists. In a clear signal to the Alagiri camp earlier this month, Mr Karunanidhi suspended five of his strong followers in Madurai.
The suspended DMK leader was credited with building his party’s organisational structure in the southern parts of the state, comprising the districts of Madurai, Sivaganga, Ramanathapuram, Virudhunagar, Theni and Dindigul, catapulting it as a strong challenger to J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK. In the Lok Sabha polls held in 2009, the DMK-led alliance bagged eight of the nine seats falling in the region. Mr Alagiri himself won comfortably from Madurai. A reluctant Mr Karunanidhi had to acknowledge his contribution by forwarding his name for a Cabinet berth in the Manmohan Singh government.
Mr Alagiri is known to be aggressive and belligerent. He was feared not just by the DMK’s political opponents in Tamil Nadu, but also by his rivals within the party. But, over the years, he also won the grudging admiration of his adversaries for helping the DMK strengthen its organisational base in southern Tamil Nadu, which had remained by and large loyal to the AIADMK since the days of MG Ramachandran. The DMDK’s emergence a force to reckon with in the southern districts, and the DMK’s damp squib in 2011 assembly polls, however, blunted his reputation.
With Mr Stalin, the DMK’s heir-apparent, building his reputation as the commander of the northern region, Mr Alagiri was forced to shift his gaze to the south. He moved to Madurai in 1989, and since then has been working quietly. Unlike most politicians, he is not known to be fond of delivering lengthy speeches.

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