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Karunanidhi’s son held for murder

Chennai, May 21: DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s elder son, M.K. Azhagiri, was arrested in Madurai today in connection with yesterday’s murder of former state minister and party MP Pasumponn T. Kiruttinan.

Azhagiri, de facto DMK boss in south Tamil Nadu, was arrested from his residence shortly after 5 am by Madurai city police. He was charged under Section 302 (committing murder) and Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

A local magistrate remanded Azhagiri in judicial custody till June 4. He was then taken to Madurai prison. By then Azhagiri’s supporters, who had gathered in large numbers, had gheraoed the police vehicle. After the police cleared away the crowd, Azhagiri was taken to Tiruchirappalli and lodged in Central Jail there.

A police team visited Azhagiri’s TVS Nagar residence in Madurai early today. After grilling him for a while, they took him into custody and produced him before the magistrate.

Although a few other DMK workers were picked up for interrogation and some Azhagiri loyalists rounded up as well, no other arrest has been made.

The police are tight-lipped on how they zeroed in on Azhagiri. They would not confirm if they had caught any of Kiruttinan’s four motorcycle-borne assailants.

Azhagiri’s arrest a month after Karunanidhi’s younger son, M.K. Stalin, was arrested for ‘criminal trespass’ into Queen Mary’s College here has thrown the DMK, known for its disciplined cadre, into a turmoil.

Today’s sensational development has serious implications for the DMK, whose organisational polls are still going on. The murder of Kiruttinan, the party’s Madurai zonal convener, has led to polls being deferred in many southern districts. Elections had hotted up in the south where Azhagiri supporters had locked horns with backers of Stalin, who is a former mayor of Chennai. Azhagiri is considered a potential threat to his brother’s ambitions of eventually becoming the DMK chief.

The party has begun a damage-control exercise. Karunanidhi said no party is immune to arrests and murders. K.V.K. Samy, a leading member from Tuticorin, was murdered in 1956 during Annadurai’s tenure as chief, he said.

Speaking to reporters from his Gopalapuram residence, the party chief said the haste with which Azhagiri was arrested appeared suspicious. It seemed the powers-that-be were trying to “kill two birds with one stone”, he said.

Asked if chief minister Jayalalithaa was trying to derive political mileage from the developments, Karunanidhi said: “It appears so.” He said the police were “attempting to foist a false case” on Azhagiri and other party members to “defame” the DMK.

Karunanidhi did not say if the DMK would seek a CBI probe. “Only an honest police officer can find out the real culprit,” he said. The DMK chief was not impressed by police claims of evidence linking his son with Kiruttinan’s murder.

Karunanidhi said there were differences between his sons and he was pained by this. He said the brothers had made up and decided to work unitedly, adding: “Which party in the country today is not plagued by groupism'”

Asked if dynastic politics was undermining the party, Karunanidhi and DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan angrily said no party was free from the phenomenon. The leaders said Azhagiri and Stalin both had a “place and role to play” in the party.

Karunanidhi’s arrest in June 2001 sparked the reconciliation between his sons. But subsequently, the DMK chief’s indulgence towards Azhagiri has surprised DMK watchers. Differences have cropped up between the brothers off and on, and relations are bound to remain strained until Karunanidhi names his successor.

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