Succession was an issue that bothered M Karunanidhi throughout his term as chief minister because his two sons, M K Stalin and M K Alagiri, wanted to inherit his mantle.
But after the DMK suffered humiliating losses in the recent Tamil Nadu polls, Karunanidhi, who will turn 87 next month, has more reasons to worry.
The buzz was that if DMK won, Karunanidhi would opt out of office as he would not want to head a coalition with the Congress.
He would have installed Stalin in his place. Alagiri, who is a Union minister, would have been forced to accept it as an inevitability - because the DMK contested only 119 of the 234 seats, leaving at least 63 to Congress. Karunanidhi's calculations went wrong as Stalin himself was struggling to win.
Alagiri, too, didn't do any better as DMK's organising secretary for southern districts, having failed to ensure victory for the party's nominees even in his bastion, Madurai.
A blame-game had already begun with an angry Alagiri blaming his father for letting stepsister Kanimozhi bring a bad name due to the 2G scam. DMK circles were rife with speculation that Alagiri would quit as Union minister and take charge of the party.
When CBI issued a summon to Kanimozhi to appear before a special court, Karunanidhi forced his sons to back her, saying she was not just "my daughter" but an important DMK functionary.
A weakened Karunanidhi may find the churning in his family harder to bear as Alagiri may take charge to salvage the DMK.
Senior DMK functionaries, who were mauled in the polls, 'know' that a party founded on 'Dravidian' principles was shattering into pieces because Karunanidhi sidelined potential threats in favour of making his favourite son, Stalin, become the chief minister after him.
Karunanidhi was hoping to become the chief minister for a record sixth time.
For the last five years the veteran leader had been saying that he would focus on party work, handing over the state administration to deputy chief minister MK Stalin.
AIADMK’s victory, on the other hand, was a huge electoral tidal wave that swept away the ruling DMK and few people expected such a massive mandate. Political observers say DMK may face a succession battle within its family after this debacle. A party member under condition of anonymity said this had been coming for some time.