» Election » In Madurai, Azhagiri is out to make a point

In Madurai, Azhagiri is out to make a point

By Saubhadro Chatterji in Madurai
May 04, 2009 08:28 IST
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Some men have positioned themselves on the terraces to shower bucketful of petals as thousands of women stand at the gate of their houses with lamp and 'tilak' to welcome the candidate in the traditional Tamil way. They grin in delight, present bouquets or sweets or shawls or even a silver crown as the hoodless jeep passes them.

Eighty-year-old K Shankaran refuses all warnings and climbs up the jeep to deck the candidate with a shawl. "I wished him great success because he is a nice man," says Shankaran.

His political rivals and even many locals will say that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam candidate in Madurai has more money and muscle power than blessings of the people. Well, there are indeed signs of power -- the walls and the skyline of even narrow bylanes are flooded with his banners and posters. At the same time, posters of his rivals are hardly visible.

In the temple town of Madurai, the 2009 Lok Sabha elections are witnessing a 'son rise' in the party of the rising sun. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's son M K Azhagiri roams the city like a landlord as his party -- the DMK, with the election symbol of sun rising behind two mountains -- works to wrest the politically important seat from the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

This seat is not only important for the personal success of Azhagiri, who is contesting the Lok Sabha elections for the first time, but also for his organising abilities. Last year, Karunanidhi divided responsibilities of his party organisation between his two sons, Azhagiri and M K Stalin.

While Stalin was given charge of the northern part of the state, Azhagiri became the party commander of the southern zone. So, Azhagari is like Rahul Gandhi: it's not enough for him to win his own seat. He has to yield results in other seats as well and play a larger role.

In these elections, where DMK's arch-rival All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is expected to bounce back with the help of a strong alliance with parties, including Pattali Makkal Katchi, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, CPI(M) and CPI, DMK's best bet is on the southern Tamil Nadu seats -- the domain given to Azhagiri. Will he be able to deliver?

Also, as Azhagiri is fielded in the Lok Sabha elections, does it mean he is being groomed for Delhi and Stalin will be given his father's space in the state?

Workers of the DMK also remember Madurai for the 2007 violence that reflected a feud in the Karunanidhi family. The Maran family (Karunanidhi's nephews)-owned newspaper -- Dinakaran -- published a survey saying Stalin, and not Azhagiri, was the most preferred heir of Karunanidhi. Soon, an angry mob stormed the Dinakaran office and set it on fire, killing three people.

The DMK MLA of the central Madurai constituency, Ghouse Basha, will tell you everything is back to normal in Kalaignar's household and the feud is a "forgotten chapter". But the reality may be different.

Dayanidhi Maran, former Union telecom minister who had to resign from the UPA Cabinet at the behest of Karunanidhi, has again got the party ticket. But his 24-page poll booklet, which flaunts his picture with Karunanidhi and Stalin on the cover, consists of his snaps with many other celebrities and politicians. But there's not a single picture of Azhagiri.

Rajendran, a local photographer, says: "Six months ago, Azhagiri started his own cable network business -- Royal Video Vision. Earlier, we all used to subscribe only to Maran family's Sumangali Cable Vision." Cable network forms a pivotal part of the Maran family's business. If Azhagiri is trying to test his luck in that field, Marans will certainly not be the happiest in this planet.

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Saubhadro Chatterji in Madurai
Source: source