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Thursday, May 10, 2007

DMK at crossroads in a charred Madurai

Madurai has always had a spiritual ring about it. Not without reason: it's the Meenakshi temple that comes to our mind first. A visit to that majestic structure has incredibly soothening influences on not merely the religious among us. Unfortunately, the city on the banks of Vaigai river was burning yesterday.

(Photo credit: Yahoo News photo. Fire and smoke are seen after a petrol bomb was thrown into the offices of the Dinakaran newspaper office in Madurai on Wednesday.)

A newspaper, Dinakaran, publishes the findings of a survey which says that of the two sons of M Karunanidhi, Stalin, and not Azhagiri, is the most preferred heir. The latter and his supports are enraged. Madurai is his stronghold and if conjectures are given any credence, with his tacit compliance, the hoodlums let loose a reign of terror. That three people died and property worth crores was destroyed is bad; but worse is the knock that Dravidian politics and social tolerance have taken.


This is not the first time Madurai is witnessing Azhagiri-related violence. As far back as Sept 2000, seven buses in the city were torched by his supporters in protest against DMK's directive to partymen not to have any truck with Azhagiri. (Source)

By design or otherwise, the Dinakaran survey and the violence came during the runup to tomorrow's grand function in Chennai to celebrate Karunanidhi's 50 years in politics. He is among the seniormost politicians in our country and his views and his party's policies have had a profound impact not only on Tamil Nadu politics but of the nation's as well.

The violence the temple town saw is symptomatic of the erosion of tolerance which ironically is so much ingrained in our civilization's spiritual legacy. If Azhagiri felt the survey results proclaimed a falsehood, the right recourse would have been to contest it in the multifarious options that are available. Violence is akin to sinking one's own boat in highwaters. More than the volatile grassroots workers it's the leadership which must take the blame.

Succession issues are common: from little-known community organisations to political parties and business houses. Smart ones devise strategies to prevent unseemly squabbles; and those who don't unwittingly script the organisation's decay and ultimate doom.

There was a struggle for MGR's legacy as well, between Jayalalitha and Janaki. We know who prevailed. But mercifully a city didn't burn. It was nevetheless ugly to the extent that for the first time police resorted to lathicharge inside the Assembly in the days after MGR's death; if I remember right, when Janaki was the CM for a brief while in the end of 1987. (Readers may correct me if I am wrong.)

It's bad for Indian poltics that a major political party is riven by violent family feud at a time when it is celebrating the golden jubilee of its patriarch entering politics. The common man is not as much bothered about survival or exit of DMK, or any other party for that matter, as the strength of the political process that ensures a good life for him.

Links:
- Three killed as newspaper office is set afire

- History of Madurai city
- A 2004 article on 'Karunanidhi, the Giant of Dravidian politics'
- Mukund Padmanabhan's piece on TN's politics of retribution

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