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Shekhar Iyer, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 26, 2010
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s "pronounced" tilt towards his second son, Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin, is behind Union Chemical and Fertilizer Minister M K Alagiri’s latest outburst — to reaffirm he is the most prominent candidate to hold the chair after his father. A few days ago, the 85-year-old DMK patriarch rejected Alagiri’s demand that he be allotted a room next to his at the party headquarters in Chennai.

Karunanidhi also turned down his demand for extending his "organisational activity", DMK sources said.

Earlier, Karunanidhi had told Alagiri not to "hang around" in  Chennai and stay put in Madu-rai if he was not happy as a Union minister in Delhi. Alagiri has been skipping cabinet meetings and sittings of Parliament.

His mother Dayalu also told Alagiri that his father wanted him to stay out of the DMK’s campaign for the March 27 by-poll in Pennagaram, which is being handled by Stalin. Karunanidhi and Stalin are already campaigning in Pennagaram.

Alagiri is also upset that Karunanidhi has assigned no role for him at the World Tamil Conference in Coimbatore in June, which is being seen as the grand finale for Karunanidhi before he times the assembly polls due in May 2011. Stalin is supervising the arrangements.

Three months ago, Karunanidhi spoke about "stepping aside" after June.

Alagiri saw a "pattern" in the build-up of Stalin’s image before the assembly polls. In May 2007, alleged DMK activists attacked the office of the Maran-owned Dinakaran daily and set it on fire, angered by an opinion poll in the daily that said Stalin was more popular than Alagiri.

Stalin’s biography was released on March 9, when editors in Chennai hailed the deputy CM’s "accessibility" to all, a contrast to Alagiri’s reclusive ways.

Sources said the "last straw" was when a national weekly hailed Stalin for "admirably" leading the Lok Sabha poll campaign when Karunanidhi was unwell. A miffed Alagiri decided to head for Australia but not before speaking to a Tamil magazine, Junior Vikatan, refusing to accept anyone other than Karunanidhi as his leader.