Maran & male bastion, both fall - Karunanidhi's wives and daughter strike

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By M.R. VENKATESH in Chennai
  • Published 14.05.07

Chennai, May 14: Not just Mayavati in the north, women seem to be calling the shots in southern politics, too.

DMK sources said it was M. Karunanidhi’s two surviving wives and daughter who persuaded the him to pull communications and IT minister Dayanidhi Maran off the Union cabinet.

“Even five years ago this would have been unthinkable,” a party functionary said.

The DMK, like most Indian parties, has always been seen as a male-dominated organisation with the thalaivar (leader) taking all the important decisions.

But Karunanidhi’s wives Dayalu Ammal and Rajathi Ammal and poet daughter Kanimozhi have increasingly been advising him on the ways to tackle the family rift with the Marans, the sources said.

Last week, matters came to a head after Dinakaran, a newspaper run by the Marans, seemed to try and drive a wedge between Karunanidhi’s two sons. It carried an opinion poll that put M.K. Stalin far ahead of elder brother M.K. Azhagiri in the party succession race.

The report provoked a mob claiming allegiance to Azhagiri to launch a firebomb attack on the newspaper’s office in Madurai, killing three employees.

A couple of days after the carnage, when the embattled Dayanidhi — Karunanidhi’s great-nephew — came to Chennai and went to the chief minister’s residence, Dayalu Ammal is believed to have stopped him.

“She told him to go to the secretariat if he wanted to meet the chief minister, even though Karunanidhi was at home,” a source said.

Dayanidhi later did manage to snatch a few minutes with his great uncle at one of Karunanidhi’s other residences, but he couldn’t save his job at the Centre.

The two clans had begun moving apart after the death of Murasoli Maran, the father of Dayanidhi and Kalanidhi.

As Kalanidhi, who runs the Sun media network, grew in clout, many in the party began resenting the Marans’ “nouveau riche attitude”. Kalanidhi’s decision to run Dinakaran, which was acquired from another group, on more professional lines and not as a DMK appendage widened the cracks.

The women in the family kept telling Karunanidhi that Kalanidhi, encouraged by his money power, was trying to exercise subtle control over the party, the sources said.

But the differences took a back seat for a while as Dayanidhi emerged a dynamic player in Delhi. When Karunanidhi returned to power as chief minister last May, everything seemed forgotten as Dayanidhi touched Stalin’s feet in the secretariat.

But in the past one year, Dayanidhi’s actions in Delhi were increasingly seen as “detrimental to the party’s interests”, the sources said.

Dayalu and Rajathi kept telling Karunanidhi that the Maran brothers “might capture the party from within” and that “some definitive” action must be taken to send out a clear signal on the party’s future leadership.

Dayalu wanted Stalin anointed as early as possible while Rajathi sought a more active political role for daughter Kanimozhi.

An attempt at a patch-up was made, again involving a woman. The Maran brothers’ mother Mallika, now in the US, was requested to rein in her sons. But the move didn’t work.

Last night, the women were able to convince Karunanidhi that the younger Maran had to go.

Dayanidhi’s first reaction seemed to tacitly acknowledge the women’s role. He said he was happy to quit his post “if it made the DMK leader and his family members happy”.

The DMK may replace him with one of its senior-most MPs, C. Kuppusamy. If his health doesn’t allow it, there could be a more complicated move involving three DMK leaders.

Union environment minister A. Raja may take over IT and communications while junior finance minister S.S. Palanimanickkam is elevated as cabinet minister for environment. Rajya Sabha member K.P.K. Kumaran may then be made a minister of state.