End of the road for 'King of Temple Town'?

Last Updated 25 March 2014, 20:52 IST

M K Alagiri, Karunanidhi's elder son, is also fondly known as ‘Anjanenjan’, meaning brave heart. He harboured the hope of succeeding his father as the future president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK).

But over the years Karunanidhi has largely appeared to favour his younger son, M K Stalin, as his successor.

Alagiri entered Madurai as with a job in a bank in the early 80's. His political career began in 1989, when the DMK won the state Assembly election. Gradually, he built a loyal legion of supporters in the temple district and rose to be the most prominent leader in southern Tamil Nadu, a vast belt comprising Madurai, Theni, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin constituencies.

Madurai, the temple city, has been 63-year-old Alagiri’s fiefdom for the past 30 years. It all started with his banishment from Madras, as the state capital was known then. In the early 1980s, Karunanidhi sent Alagiri, then a bank employee, to Madurai after clashes between his supporters and Stalin's in the state capital. Alagiri was told to run the DMK mouthpiece Murasoli in Madurai.

Alagiri’s initial days in Madurai were not easy. Senior DMK leaders distanced themselves from him because he was Karunanidhi’s prodigal son. Former highways minister Pasumpon T Kiruttinan controlled the DMK’s fortunes in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. After Kiruttinan was murdered in 2003, Alagiri took charge and became Madurai’s ‘strong man’.

He was accused of being the main conspirator behind Kiruttinan’s death, but was later acquitted because prosecutors couldn’t prove his role in the case.

Alagiri graduated from Presidency College in Chennai with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He was appointed organizing secretary of the DMK for southern districts after by-poll victories in 2008. Alagiri was given a ticket for Madurai Lok Sabha constituency in the 2009 elections, which he won. He was made a minister in UPA II.

Alagiri rarely attended office as a minister nor did he reply to questions in Parliament, a practice that was scorned upon by many, including his fellow MPs. Alagiri quit the government along with other ministers from DMK last March, but continued as an MP.

Even today, physical fights between supporters of Alagiri and Stalin frequently occur. In the run up to the 2014 elections, the DMK looks weakened in comparison to its main rival, the AIADMK. This is due to deterioration in relations between Alagiri on one side and Karunanidhi and Stalin on the other, while Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa doled out populist schemes that have made her a hit.

(Published 25 March 2014, 20:52 IST)

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