Signalling a possible rapprochement to a bitter family feud, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) heir-apparent Udhayanidhi Stalin on Monday (Jan 16) met his uncle and former Union Minister M.K Alagiri in Madurai.
With Chief Minister M. K Stalin firmly ensconced in power and his son Udhayanidhi, who was recently elevated as a minister in the DMK government, emerging as his undisputed successor, the overtures to CM's estranged elder brother Alagiri is viewed by party cadres as a precursor to a family reunion.
Stalin, who had visited the city many times after expelling his elder brother from the party in 2014, has so far assiduously stayed away from meeting Alagiri at his residence.
While supporters of Alagiri told local media that it was just a courtesy call, the meeting assumes significance given the dynamics prevailing in party's faction-ridden Madurai unit. The group led by state finance Minister P.T Palanivel Rajan, a sitting legislator from Madurai Central, is known to be opposed to the Alagiri.
Despite occasionally making acerbic comments against his brother and posturing on a possible political comeback, Alagiri has stayed away from active politics after his expulsion in 2014.
Before Stalin managed to completely outwith Alagiri in the race to succeed their father M. Karunanidhi as the DMK supremo, the brothers (Stalin and Alagiri) were engaged in a bitter stand-off.
Though Alagiri is the elder of the two siblings, Karunanidhi always favoured Stalin to succeed and inducted Alagiri into politics only around 2004.
Alagiri was assigned the task of strengthening the party in southern districts, which was a huge area of weakness for the party hit by an exodus of veterans who shifted allegiance to MDMK formed by rebel leader V. Gopalaswami aka Vaiko.
Alagiri’s no-holds barred style of politics and increasingly visibility in the family-owned outfit set him on a collision course with Stalin who viewed him as an usurper.
After every round of feuding, a truce would be announced thanks to intervention by their mother, Dayalu Ammal, and party elders, but the fight would erupt again a few months later.
In Jan 2013, Karunanidhi declared that "if I, as an individual, were to get an opportunity, I would propose only Stalin's name" for the DMK leadership."
Karunanidhi categorically declaring his preference for Stalin as successor was seen as a firm move towards ending long-running feud. Post the announcement by Karunanidhi, Alagiri's fortunes in the party began plummeting, with even his loyalists deserting him. However Alagiri continued to nurse his ambition to take control of the party.
In 2013, the family feud hit a nadir when Karunanidhi made startling allegations that Alagiri barged into his bedroom, spoke against Stalin and used foul language.
"Alagiri told me loudly that Stalin will die in three or four months". Karunanidhi said,
"Can any father bear to hear such words? I bore those words because I am the party leader too." Karunanidhi further said in his typically rhetorical flourish.
"What happened on that day represented the height of Alagiri's inexplicable long-held hatred towards Stalin." Karunanidhi alleged.
In Jan 2014, Alagiri was suspended from the party membership and relieved of his post as DMK south zone organising secretary.
Alagiri's Political Journey
Alagiri, elected to Lok Sabha from the Madurai constituency in 2009 elections, was immediately made a cabinet Minister in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre.
In the 2011 state assembly election, DMK suffered a humiliating rout and finished even behind actor Vijayakanth's DMDK. Karunanidhi held Congress responsible for the electoral defeat, and the relationship between the two parties began to deteriorate.
In March 2013, the DMK decided to pull out of the UPA government and asked its Ministers in the Union Cabinet to resign. Alagiri resented the decision and believed that his brother Stalin was behind it as he was jealous of his growing stature. Alagiri even delayed giving his resignation as Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers by a couple of days but eventually complied with the party decision.
Over the years, Alagiri made a determined attempt to capture party leadership. Still, he failed to endear him to the majority of the DMK cadres and leaders, as he was seen as someone who frequently resorted to strong-arm tactics.
In May 2007, the office of Tamil daily Dinakaran, owned by Karunanidhi's grandnephew Kalanidhi Maran, was attacked and set on fire by supporters of Alagiri. He and his supporters were said to be enraged by an opinion poll published by the daily on who should succeed Karunanidhi.
In the poll, 70 per cent of the respondents backed Stalin and 2 per cent each favoured Azhagiri and Kanimozhi, Karunanidhi's daughter.
The violence and arson claimed three lives - two young engineers and a security guard in the Dinakaran office - and set off a chain of events that ended in the exit of Dayanidhi Maran, younger brother of Kalanidhi Maran, as Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology.
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