A high-pitched battle between party patriarch M Karunanidhi and son MK Stalin for power and the failure to oust corrupt leaders and maintain a clean image has left the party in shambles, observes N Sathiya Moorthy.
It seems that the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham doesn’t learn from its mistakes. Following their crushing loss in the 2014 elections, party cadres and sympathisers thought things would change. However, it doesn’t appear to be. The party seems determined to continue on this ‘self-destructive’ mode.
Despite drawing a huge blank in the Lok Sabha polls, the DMK still retained its traditional 25 per cent vote-share. Both cadres of the DMK and other parties that had lost out to the ruling AIADMK had hoped for the party to shed its shock and demoralisation, to be able to lead a possible anti-AIADMK alliance for the state assembly polls, due in 2016.
The bad news for the DMK cadres and prospective allies is that the party is caught in a high-octave familial shadow-boxing between supremo M Karunanidhi and his treasurer-son M K Stalin.
According to party veterans, they see it as a power struggle with Karunanidhi trying to bring back the party under his control.
The greater issue for Karunanidhi, Stalin and the DMK at large is the continued non-acceptance of many of their district-level leaders and former ministers at the Centre or in the state to the outside voters.
An internal assessment also revealed that another reason for their loss and their downward spiral is that they continued with leaders, who were involved in the 2G scam -- namely Kanimozhi, Dayanidhi Maran and A Raja who did not reflect any guilt or remorse.
Furthermore, Stalin committed a large tactical error by sidelining everyone whom he possibly thought could even remotely challenge his leadership in the future, which includes popular actor Khushboo, who was a crowd-puller.
Party insiders also add that Stalin was unwilling to shoulder responsibility for the party’s loss in the 2014 polls.
Acting on a well-balanced panel’s report on poll debacle, the Karunanidhi leadership either gave marching orders, or sought explanations for ‘anti-party activity’ from close to three dozen leaders, including a sitting Rajya Sabha member and former ministers.
If the cadres had hoped that Karunanidhi and co would use the ongoing organisational polls at all levels to clean up the stable, it’s not to be. According to local media reports and insider claims, it has continued to remain as farcical as the Stalin camp could make it.
Stalin for CM nomination
Another reason for the party’s miseries is that Stalin supporters are trying to push the heir apparent as the party’s candidate for the chief minister’s post. On the other hand, Karunanidhi continues to try hold the power in his hands. This has led to a tussle, which even saw Karunanidhi suspending Stalin confidant and party organisation secretary PV Kalyanasundaram. Kalyanasundaram had publicised a personal letter in which he had declared Stalin as the party's chief ministerial candidate for 2016 assembly elections. He had also demanded that Kanimozhi and A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran be removed from the party to restore the party’s image.
Furthermore, political pundits state that the public continues to perceive the DMK as those wanting to protect wrong-doers.
And the biggest dilemma that lies before the party chief is that if he does introduce a new leader at the top, it would send out a wrong message to the supporters. Hence, the need of the hour is to strike a right balance – of a credible leader at the top, aided and assisted by a relatively ‘clean’ second head at the district level. For that to happen, Stalin, in particular, will have to change, and Karunanidhi has to effect other changes down the line.
N Sathiya Moorthy, veteran journalist and political analyst, is director, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai chapter.