Chennai, April 17 (IANS) When one thinks of political dynasties in South India, the first to come to mind is the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) clan of late M. Karunanidhi, which includes his extended family -- the Marans.
A staunch opponent of the Congress and its dynastic rule in his early days, Karunanidhi later changed tact and paved the way for his progeny's progress within the party. At one point of time, when Karunanidhi was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, one of his sons M.K. Stalin, now DMK President, was elevated to the Deputy Chief Minister's post. Now, Stalin's son Udayanidhi Stalin has also entered politics.
Karunanidhi kept a tight grip on the party for 50 years till his end, despite presiding over two major splits and being out of power between 1977 and 1998.
During this time, he also ensured Cabinet berths for his other son M.K. Alagiri and grand nephew Dayanidhi Maran in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government and a Rajya Sabha seat for daughter Kanimozhi.
Kanimozhi who was embroiled in the 2G spectrum scam is contesting as DMK candidate from the Thoothukudi Lok Sabha constituency.
Karunanidhi's nephew Murasoli Maran was the first from the family to join the party. He first became a Lok Sabha member in 1967. After that he was elected to both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha several times, and was part of the central governments led by V.P. Singh, I.K. Gujral, H.D. Deva Gowda and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
With Murasoli Maran's death in 2003, Karunanidhi lost his "conscience keeper" and the party's face in Delhi. To fill the void, he got the former's second son Dayanidhi Maran a cabinet post in the Manmohan Singh government in 2004 and 2009.
Dayanidhi Maran and his elder brother and Sun TV Network promoter Kalanithi Maran fell out of favour of the Karunanidhi clan for some time, a couple of years back, but they patched up later. Dayanidhi Maran is now the DMK candidate from the Chennai Central Lok Sabha seat.
Earlier, sensing his elder son Alagiri's unhappiness over his grooming of Stalin, Karunanidhi sent the former to Madurai to take care of the party affairs in southern districts.
However, the friction between the brothers continued and Alagiri was dismissed from the party for anti-party activities. Curiously, it's only Alagiri who is now out of the DMK, while all other members of the DMK's first family are in the party.
And Alagiri's absence has only cemented Stalin's position in the DMK. "Stalin does not have any challenger now. The moment Vaiko went out of the DMK, challenge to the party leadership also vanished," said former AIADMK MP K.C. Palanisamy.
Palanisamy also explains why cadres and people are invested in the DMK even after the demise of its founder. "The DMK is a cadre-based party, in which the party structure and hierarchy are strictly followed. Its cadres and supporters were deeply attached to the ideals of the Dravidian movement. The AIADMK, on the other hand, is a leader-based party. When Vaiko left the DMK taking with him several district secretaries, a good number of people from the AIADMK joined the DMK."
While it was Karunanidhi's contributions in the literary field -- poems, novels, stage/screen plays, articles and others propagating ideologies -- that earned him the title of Kalaignar or scholar of arts, his contribution to Indian politics is no less.
"Karunanidhi left an indelible imprint in the Tamil Nadu politics. He was instrumental in implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations for reservation for other backward communities," writer and political commentator Maalan Narayanan told IANS.
According to Narayanan, the late DMK leader will be remembered for both good and bad reasons, like corruption, and cited the Sarkaria Commission report that said the rulers were indulging in scientific corruption.