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DMK wracked by sibling rivalry

 | January 31, 2014

Moderation has never been one of Alagiri’s virtues. Worse, he has always been hot-headed.


Sibling rivalry in the country’s high places is nothing new. We have seen that once in the house of Reliance, an empire, or almost, which Dhirubhai Ambani built. Rather created over decades – and from a scratch.

But when Ambani passed away, his two sons, Mukesh and Anil, could not see eye to eye, and were ready to even murder the other. Or, so we were led to believe then.

And had it not been for their mother, a patch-up between the brothers might never have worked out. The Reliance empire was divided, though, with each of the two siblings agreeing to take care of different interests in the company.

A re-enactment of this was recently seen in one of Tamil Nadu’s political parties, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), whose patriarchal head and former chief minister of the state, M.K. Karunanidhi, suspended his elder son, M.K. Alagiri, from the party.

Alagiri’s cruel utterances against his younger brother, M.K. Stalin, upset their father. Alagiri had said that Stalin would die within a few months. Stalin retorted by merely saying that everybody had to die some day.

The cause of this sibling conflict was Karunanidhi’s soft corner for Stalin, who is the heir apparent to the DMK throne, not the older brother, Alagiri.

Stalin, of course, richly deserves this. With his diligence, he had won the confidence and support of the party’s cadres. This has been the clinching reason for Karunanidhi to declare Stalin as his successor, not Alagiri.

Karunanidhi lamented: “Alagiri has had an inexplicable hatred towards Stalin for a long time. At the height of it, early on Jan 24, he came to my house and complained about Stalin while I was lying down. He used unwarranted and hateful words that enraged me. My heart breaks to even think of what he said. He said Stalin would die in three-four months. No father can stand this, but I did, because I am also the president of the party,”

Alagiri was suspended from all party posts last week, and Karunanidhi said the DMK would decide on Alagiri’s expulsion in the next few days.

There was another point which could have unnerved the father. Alagiri’s comment about Stalin came after the elder brother had brashly predicted that the DMK would lose all the parliamentary seats in the coming general elections.

On the contrary, Stalin had always been a moderate. And as the deputy to his father, when he was the State chief minister, Stalin had conducted himself with dignity and decorum. The other day, when the effigies of Alagiri were being burnt by Stalin’s supporters, he stopped them from doing so. “This is not how you should behave with my elder brother”, he was firm.

Moderation has never been one of Alagiri’s virtues. Worse, he has always been hot-headed.

The rivalry between the two sons has been the greatest threat to the DMK, to its very survival. Will the party continue to exist after Karunanidhi? This is the question that ought to trouble the DMK.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at [email protected]


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