he Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (DMK) will hold a meeting of its executive committee on Tuesday for the first time since the death of its leader M Karunanidhi a week ago amid a claim by his estranged son MK Azhagiri that he has the support of his father’s “true and loyal supporters”.
A senior DMK functionary said on the condition of anonymity on Monday that a resolution paying tribute to Karunanidhi would be passed at the executive committee’s meeting to be chaired by MK Stalin, the party’s working president and treasurer.
“Stalin has already been anointed as the political heir of Kalaignar. The meeting will not discuss anything about those who were expelled from the party,” the functionary said.
“Though the executive committee does not have the power to elect the party president, it can give the nod to making Stalin the president. After that, it will be endorsed in the general council meeting — in which a formal announcement can be made,” another senior DMK office-bearer had said on the condition of anonymity.
Former Tamil Nadu chief minister Karunanidhi died at the age of 94 on August 7 in Chennai’s Kauvery Hospital.
Stalin’s elevation is not a big surprise since Karunanidhi had spoken about Stalin as his successor on a few occasions in the past — including during Stalin’s birthday celebrations in 2015 and in an interview to Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan in October 2016.
Officials in the DMK familiar with the developments told HT last week that, apart from Stalin, Karunanidhi’s daughter and Rajya Sabha MP MK Kanimozhi may also be elevated — as either the party’s deputy general secretary or treasurer.
Azhagiri, a former Union minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime, was sacked from the party by his father ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 for alleged indiscipline amid a turf war with his brother Stalin over establishing a supremacy in Tamil Nadu’s main opposition party.
His cryptic comments about differences with the “party” and not the “family” created a buzz. By evening, posters with his image had been splashed all over Madurai, the temple town in Tamil Nadu considered his bastion, referring to a new party the Kalaignar DMK.
“I came to pour out my anguish to Kalaignar (Karunanidhi’s nickname which means artist in Tamil). All true and loyal followers of Kalaignar are with me,” Azhagiri told reporters on Monday after offering prayers at his father’s memorial at Marina Beach.
Azhagiri added that his “anguish” was about the party and not the family. The public will soon come to know more about it, he added, while declining to comment about the executive committee meeting saying he was not associated with party activities any longer.
“Many in the party are also in touch with actor Rajinikanth and there is a threat to the party as posts are being sold. Stalin does not want me in the DMK,” Azhagiri said later in the day.
It wasn’t clear in which context he was referring to the popular actor-turned-politician, who recently launched a party and said he would contest the next state elections in Tamil Nadu.
Azhagiri added that the DMK under Stalin has “weakened” and is losing election after election. “Kalaignar’s departed soul will certainly punish them,” he said.
Both Stalin and Azhagiri were at Karunanidhi’s Gopalapuram home on Monday to observe the leader’s seventh-day mourning rituals with other family members. Selvi, Karunanidhi’s daughter, is believed to have brokered peace between the brothers for the duration of the mourning.
The DMK’s arch rival and the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Khahzgram (AIADMK), described Azaghari’s comments as a sign of the DMK’s weakness.
“Azhagiri cannot be dismissed as yet another expelled party worker. Remember, Azhagiri is the elder son of Kalaignar and he has been a Union minister,” AIADMK spokesperson Vaigai Chelvan said.
State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president, Tamilisai Soundarajan, cryptically said: “After the demise of the sun (Karunanidhi), stars are trying to shine.”
Experts say not much will come out of Azhagiri’s attempt to claim his father’s legacy as it may have come too late.
“He was politically dormant for the past four years and his chances of succeeding are slim. Unlike AIADMK leader, J Jayalalithaa, Kalaignar was clear about his succession and the DMK’s future. Further, Stalin has consolidated his position in the party,” said political commentator A Marx.