DMK leader M Karunanidhi is a troubled man these days. On Friday, one of the DMK leader’s sons, MK Alagiri, was suspended from the party for anti-party activities. That the suspension came after his younger brother MK Stalin was appointed to lead the party was not lost on those who were aware about the bitter sibling rivalry.
The fracas has been accompanied by the sound-and-light show that Indian politics provides to the people — Karunanidhi accused Alagiri of saying that Stalin will die in three or four months; Alagiri denied it; Stalin supporters burnt Alagiri in effigy and a section of the party nominated Stalin’s name for the Madurai Lok Sabha seat (currently Alagiri is the MP). It is surprising that for all his political sagacity, Karunanidhi, at the autumn of his political career, could not anticipate this unhappy episode.
The crisis in the DMK couldn’t have come at a worse time. The party was just about recovering from the electoral drubbing it got at the 2011 assembly elections — of the 234 seats in the assembly, the DMK managed only a paltry 23.
The DMK is no stranger to dissent. In 1972, MG Ramachandran broke away from the party to form the AIADMK. In 1994, Karunanidhi’s then trusted lieutenant Vaiko was expelled from the party. The relationship between the two soured when Stalin and Alagiri were given preference over Vaiko.
For more than four decades Tamil Nadu has either had a DMK or an AIADMK government. This two-party dominance has given little room for other parties to grow and flourish. However, if the Stalin-Alagiri tiff were to create problems or even split the DMK, it could lead to a vacuum in the political space in the state, altering the present balance. If such a scenario arises, the biggest gainer, for the moment, would be actor-politician Vijayakanth’s DMDK that got almost 8% of the votes in the 2011 assembly polls. The Congress, the Left parties and the PMK are other probable gainers.
Though Karunanidhi, last December, declared that the DMK would not ally with the Congress in the coming general elections, the possibility of a post-poll alliance with either the Congress or even the BJP cannot be ruled out. However, the present crisis will hamper the DMK’s chances to net a sizable number of seats and be wooed by the national parties or by a third front.