M A I N   N E W S

3 die as Karunanidhi family feud hots up
Dinakaran office torched
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, May 9
Three persons were burnt alive as a Tamil newspaper office was set ablaze by rampaging followers of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s son, M. Azhagiri, in Madurai today as result of fallout of rivalry within the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

Trouble started in the temple town after today’s edition of Tamil daily Dinakaran, owned by Sun TV headed by Kalanidhi Maran, elder brother of union minister for IT and telecommunications Dayanidhi Maran, carried a poll survey indicating Karunanidhi’s heir.

The survey stated that while 70 per cent of the readers favoured Karunanidhi’s younger son M.K. Stalin, Tamil Nadu minister for local administration, only two per cent preferred the elder son, M.K. Azhagiri.

Angered DMK workers loyal to Azhagiri took to the streets damaging vehicles and burning buses. The mob targeted the office of Dinakaran and set fire to the building.

While some employees were able to escape, three were charred to death inside the building before fire engines could rush to the spot to douse the fire.

An embarrassed Karunanidhi in a statement late evening condemned the incident, saying it was an attack on the freedom of the press. He said: “The DMK is a democratic party in which no successors are chosen.” He also announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the dead.

The district administration was totally paralysed for a long time and there was no police action as the ruling party workers continued their vandalism.

The police ultimately arrested 45 people and the situation was reportedly brought under control after some time.

The same opinion poll stated that while one per cent favoured Karunanidhi's daughter M. Kanimozhi, who is yet to make a formal entry into politics, 20 per cent preferred ‘others’, assumed to be Dayanidhi Maran.

Being seen as a family feud, it marks yet another incident in the long-standing dispute. The rivalry between Karunanidhi's sons has hogged the headlines earlier too. Though Azhagiri is elder, Stalin is senior to him in politics. Stalin was imprisoned during the Emergency and later became the leader of the DMK's youth wing in 1980. He was elected to the state assembly four times and also became the mayor of Chennai in 1996.

In comparison, Azhagiri was known to be a ‘leader of musclemen’ and in September 2000, during the DMK regime, his men were detained under the National Security Act after they burnt buses following a feud within the party. He was also arrested in 2003 on charges of murder of a DMK leader and former state minister T. Kiruttinan and was imprisoned till the court exiled him to Bangalore for a long time.

After the DMK came to power last year, a sort of compromise was brokered between the two brothers. While Stalin was accommodated in the Ministry, Azhagiri was given charge of southern Tamil Nadu.

Today's violence is being seen an attack on the Maran family, which owns ‘Dinakaran’. The Marans are Karunanidhi's grandnephews and Dayanidhi’s being in the limelight has earned him not only the wrath of the CM’s sons but also of a strong ally of the DMK in the state, the PMK.

The survey’s timing is such that it coincides with the upcoming celebrations on Karunanidhi's 50 years in legislative politics.



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