Chennai: For long attention has been centred on the sibling war between Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's sons M.K. Stalin and M.K. Azhagiri, and little thought was given to the ambition apparently nurtured by the Maran brothers. The day that Mr Azhagiri's supporters ran amok in Madurai, resulting in the death of three employees of the Maran-owned Dinakaran newspaper, the impression created was that the chief minister's older son was at it again. He was thought to be enraged by a survey in the newspaper that projected his brother Stalin as the heir-apparent, leaving him with a popular support of just around two per cent. But in reality the brothers had patched up and are now supporting their step-sister Kanimozhi's Rajya Sabha prospects.
The new twist in the DMK's family politics became clear when the chief minister disowned the Maran brothers and defended Mr Azhagiri. For all his powerful Sun TV, money power and lineage - his father, a DMK veteran, was nephew and confidante of Karunanidhi - Dayanidhi had to bite the dust after the Dinakaran episode. While Mr Karunanidhi maintains that the DMK elects its leader democratically, there is hardly anyone in the DMK who can challenge Stalin's authority. Almost all the district secretaries are his nominees or loyalists He decided the parties which the DMK was to strike an alliance with in the 2001 Assembly elections.
Mr Stalin, however, has emerged as a powerful centre in the party. Today he is the powerful local administration minister and is the fourth seniormost minister in the Karunanidhi Cabinet. The family's grip over the party organisation tightened after the Vaiko episode in the Nineties. Mr Vaiko, then known as V. Gopalsamy, posed a challenge to Stalin's leader ship in the party. When he was expelled on the ground that he undertook a secret journey to Jaffna to meet LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran, nine of the district secretaries of the 31 district secretaries threw their weight behind him. Mr Vaiko claimed that he enjoyed the support of the majority of the members of the general council. Mr Karunanidhi convened the general council meeting of the party in Thanjavur in 1993 to disprove this. Only around 120 members of the 1,200 odd members supported Mr Vaiko at the meeting. But the support by nine district secretaries came as a surprise and the party leadership started paying attention to the election of district secretaries to ensure that they were loyal to the Karunanidhi and Stalin.
Today there is hardly any district secretary who will go against Mr Stalin. Even in the local basic units it is very difficult to spot an antiStalin element. In Madurai, brother Mr Azhagiri is a force to reckon with. He decides the office-bearers in the district and has his representatives in the Cabinet.
"When a doctor's son becomes a doctor and a lawyer's son becomes a lawyer what should prevent a politician's son from following in his father's footsteps? Family is an inseparable part of Dravidian politics.
The late Periyar's family members were in politics. Family members of senior leaders like late Nedunchezhian, N.V. Natarajan and Mathiazhagan were also in politics. But only a few outshine the others," argues T.K.S. Elangovan, organisation secretary of the DMK.
Politics genetic for Gandhis By Venkatesh for Gandhis New Delhi:The Congress represents the quintessential aspect of the Gandhis having made politics their business. It is referred to more popularly as dynastic politics. It has become an asset as well as a liability for the party which once shaped the destiny of the country after Independence. Problems arose when Indira Gandhi concentrated power in her hands and systematically sidelined regional leaders and told the rank and file that her charisma could do the trick. This made the rank and file complacent. Her assassination in 1984 saw an unprecedented mandate for son Rajiv which also helped the growing halo of the first family.
The family gave the country three Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv. As the party relied on the first family for charisma to gain power, the organisation failed to realise that it cannot survive merely on symbolism and a glorious past.
The plight of the grand old party in the Hindi heartland for the past two decades is a telling commentary on its dependence on the first family and how lack of a charismatic leader affects the organisation.
Even after its second split in 1978, the party was virtu ally led by the family, with the exceptions of P.V. Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri.
Besides Sanjay Gandhi, Vijay Lakshmi Pandit (daughter of Motilal Nehru) and Nayantara Sehgal (daughter of Vijay Lakshmi) had also played active roles in politics. And now, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi are following their footsteps. This is perhaps a unique example in India where members of the same family remained in the lime light, holding positions in the government and outside.The grand old party not only survives but thrives on sycophancy of the first family, no matter whether it is relevant in the 21st century. The family is hailed as the glue that ensured the unity of the party right from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru. The fate of the family and party is so interlinked that loyalists believe that only a Nehru-Gandhi family can keep the party together and keep it afloat politically.