The DMK chief M Karunanidhi has made it clear - his successor is his son MK Stalin. But the change of guard is not going to be as smooth as the patriarch would want going by the angry protest from his other son MK Alagiri, who asserted that the party was not a mutt in which the head could decide on his successor. The real issue here is whether having stated his wishes, the DMK supremo will be able to enforce his choice. His statement, "If I get an opportunity - I reiterate it now - I will use it to propose only Stalin's name" suggests that he is not on very firm ground on this. Mr Alagiri wants the DMK to chose its own leader, but there are hints that Mr Karunanidhi fears that an internal election would only complicate matters. But at the moment, there is an impasse given the unwillingness of the brothers to accept each other.
This invariably raises the question of whether the unrest in the DMK will impact on the alliance with the Congress? It is unlikely that either brother is willing to risk snapping ties when the DMK is down and out. So, there is no real threat from the DMK to the UPA's stability. In naming Mr Stalin, Mr Karunanidhi had clearly hoped that Mr Alagiri would accept his decision. In 2009, Mr Karunanidhi sent Mr Alagiri to the Centre while making Mr Stalin deputy CM. At that time it was thought that Mr Karunanidhi would hang up his boots, but with the brothers at loggerheads, that did not happen. So, two years down the line, when the DMK went to the 2011 polls where it was badly mauled by the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK, Mr Karunanidhi still had to lead from the front. The 2G imbroglio seemingly united the family, but that bonhomie dissipated quickly. After the assembly polls, Mr Alagiri found he had lost his political fortress of Madurai for which he blamed the 2G scam.
With Mr Karunanidhi's favourite daughter Kanimozhi pitching in for Mr Stalin, the family feud is bound to get uglier. It will take all of Mr Karunanidhi's famed political skills to bring about peace in the ranks. If things continue this way, the party could well split, not a legacy that the Kalaignar as the DMK chief is known would want to leave behind.