The DMK’s only power centre

R Balaji | Updated on August 07, 2018

M Karunanidhi would brook no competition. Early in his political career, power centres within the party were edged out. But on two occasions this proved costly for the DMK. One of Karunanidhi’s earliest moves was to out-manoeuvre VR Nedunchezhian, a strong contender to take over the DMK and the chief ministership from CN Annadurai, who died in office.

Though Nedunchezhian stayed on with the DMK for over a decade, he exited in 1977 and subsequently joined the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), which had been floated by MG Ramachandran, who, too, had left the DMK after a clash with Karunanidhi.

After a bitter power struggle with M Karunanidhi in the DMK, VR Nedunchezhian (lleft) crossed over to MG Ramachandran’s ADMK.   -  THE HINDU


MGR, as Ramachandran was popularly known, gained popularity as an actor, and in the DMK’s early years, had been instrumental in popularising its philosophy through his movies. MGR’s growing popularity led to an initial cold war with Karunanidhi, which later developed into open rivalry between the two.

Karunanidhi introduced his elder son, MK Muthu, as an actor, and got him the kind of roles that MGR did. Movie buffs of the early 1970s still recall how Muthu aped MGR in make-up, hairdo, apparel and choice of do-gooder roles. But he faded away after a few movies.

In 1972, after MGR was expelled from the DMK, he floated the Anna DMK (later the All India ADMK). The ADMK captured power in 1977 and held government till 1988. The AIADMK is, till date, the DMK’s single-largest rival and both parties have alternately been in power in the State.

Vaiko’s expulsion

Another landmark exit was that of Vaiko, who was expelled in 1993. Vai Gopalsamy, as Vaiko was known then, floated the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a political party which ate into the DMK’s support base and has been a thorn in its flesh ever since, although it has never had the success of the AIADMK. The popular perception at the time was that Vaiko’s growing popularity and strength within the DMK was emerging a threat to the growth of Karunanidhi’s son, MK Stalin, who is now the Working President of the DMK. The MDMK website spells this out clearly.

But Karunanidhi’s costliest ever mistake could be closer, within his family: his inability to resolve the power tussle between sons Stalin and Alagiri. Stalin worked his way up the ranks to first become the DMK’s Youth Wing Secretary, its Treasurer, Deputy General Secretary and now Working President. In 2009, he was even made deputy CM. Alagiri is believed to wield significant power in the southern districts. Both are in a running battle though they do not acknowledge it.

A frustrated Karunanidhi even tried expelling Alagiri from the DMK after he became overtly defiant. But Karunanidhi stopped short of categorically announcing a transition of power to Stalin.

Published on August 07, 2018

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