Uphill task for Karunanidhi to revive DMK fortunes

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president Muthuvel Karunanidhi is a beleaguered person after his party faced one of the worst defeats in the last Lok Sabha elections.

 At 90, the DMK chief carries the onerous task of pulling the battered party back to winning ways in a virtual do-or-die electoral battle for state assembly which is just two years away.

A fratricidal war is on between his sons - party treasurer M K Stalin and Madurai strongman and former party south zone organising secretary M K Alagiri. This, and electoral reverses and a slew of corruption charges against the DMK's first family all but threaten to eclipse the `rising sun’ (the party symbol) with the nonagenarian leader being forced to wage a battle on all fronts to keep his political party relevant in the changing times.

Life has come a full circle for Karunanidhi. Crowded with various issues, he is desperately looking for a miracle to salvage the party and revive its fortunes. When the DMK faced several defeats in the recent past, an energetic Karunanidhi often made use of his fiery oratory skill to revive not only the party but also to give the much-needed morale booster to his party cadres. When the DMK government was dismissed in January 1991, he travelled length and breath of the state and used his vocal talent, which apparently made the party cadres spring back into action.

Though a master orator who could attract the crowd with his splash of anecdotes and chirpy remarks besides strong loaded statements, the DMK patriarch is now carrying the burden of resetting the party's fortunes, albeit moving on a wheel-chair. 

Seeking to enthuse party cadres soon after the rout in the Lok Sabha polls, Karunanidhi urged his cadres to introspect and ensure their words and deeds are in consonance with DMK's ideals. "Good or bad does not come from others," he said, quoting a popular verse to indicate that blame for defeat should collectively lie within the party. In a message to cadres on his birthday on June 3, Karunanidhi also said "no one can destroy you...except by yourself," quoting party founder C N Annadurai.

Apart from losing power to arch rival All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), headed by the present Chief Minister J Jayalalitha in the 2011 Assembly elections, the DMK was washed out in this year's parliamentary polls drawing a blank. The AIADMK won 37 out of the total 39 seats and the BJP and the PMK one seat each.The sibling war between Stalin and Alagiri, many say, is destroying the party and just before the Lok Sabha polls, the leadership suspended several workers loyal to Alagiri, many of whom had spent years building the party at the grassroots level. A few of those suspended had been ministers at the Centre and in the state.

Alagiri’s protest

Since then, Alagiri had been voicing his protest in several forms and had even rightly predicted that the party would be defeated badly in polls. Adding to Karunanidhi's woes, party's senior members and former Central ministers Dayanidhi Maran and A Raja lost their charm inside the party since they were charged in the 2G scam. Many party loyalists including the recently suspended P V Kalyanasundaram demanded removal of leaders like Kanimozhi, A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran since they were facing land grabbing and disproportionate assets cases. They also demanded that these leaders be stripped of all party posts. 

After Karunanidhi declared openly that his younger son Stalin will be his heir apparent, the latter ensured that he installed his loyalists as the party district secretaries. In the name of revamping the party and with the influence of Stalin, the party leadership suspended more than 30 of its district secretaries and others including former Union minister S S Palanimanickam and Rajya Sabha MP K P Ramalingam, close confidants of Alagiri. 

The five-time chief minister is facing an unenviable task of blunting the challenge posed by his expelled Madurai-based son who had set out on a mission to spoil the chances of the DMK candidates, which he did successfully in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls. 

Incidentally in 2004, when Jayalalitha was leading the government in Tamil Nadu, the DMK chief, who had walked out of the BJP-led NDA, struck an alliance with the Congress, only to net all the 40 LS seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and rise as an influential figure in the UPA. His party went on to win the 2006 assembly elections and formed the government under his leadership where Stalin made his debut as a minister. 

Will Karunanidhi, a successful screenplay writer for many films including thespian actor Sivaji Ganesan's debut 'Parasakthi' in the 1950s, script a victory for his party, remains to be seen in the coming assembly elections. An 11-time MLA known for his political acumen, Karunanidhi had also to weather domestic storms to save his party as his sons are locked in a dispute over who will be his political heir.

A renascent Jayalalitha, after her party's resounding win in Lok Sabha polls, is leaving no stone unturned to seek another term and is harping on her party's policies and launching series of "Amma" brand welfare measures.

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