On 3 July, 2022, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK Chief MK Stalin, while addressing a party function at Namakkal, said: “People have made me chief minister due to my hard work in the party for 50 years… Don’t embarrass me and crores of DMK cadres before the people of Tamil Nadu by tainting the party’s image. Remember every day that I am your brother.”
In the same meeting, he warned the DMK councillors and functionaries that he would “become a dictator” if they were involved in illegal activities.
After some three months, on 9 October, Stalin, after being elected as DMK’s president for the second time, anguished: “Every morning I get up with the hope that our people would not have created any trouble. Sometimes, I am not able to sleep. You can realise it by seeing my body and health condition. Your action should bring laurels to the party and should not denigrate it… The party has been subjected to ridicule and shame because of the behaviour of some.”
Advice falls on deaf ears
Going by recent incidents where DMK functionaries were involved in anti-social and outrightly unlawful activities, it is doubtful whether the cadres even registered the words of their party president.
Apart from making insensitive comments and getting into controversies in public fora, several DMK workers or office bearers are now accused of taking the law into their own hands, including involvement in cases of murder.
After the clash between the supporters of DMK’s own leaders — Minister KN Nehru and MP Tiruchy Siva — Opposition leader Edappadi K Palaniswami of the AIADMK questioned the competence of the chief minister, who holds the home department that controls the police.
In a statement, Palaniswami said: “It is the first time that the state has a chief minister who is inept at controlling his own ministers and party functionaries.”
In the past recent, the DMK functionaries have been caught in many controversies and even criminal cases. Of course, in many cases party suspends them from the posts they hold, but the incidents continue to occur.
A litany of offences
In Thanjavur, though DMK Thirupananthal union councillor Seethapathi was on 9 October, 2021, named in an FIR for instigating the murder of a Dalit youth named Prabhakaran and giving shelter to the prime accused Manikandan and Karthi at his house, the police are yet to arrest him.
In Ramanathapuram, a serving DMK councillor Sarbraz Nawaz and former DMK councillor Jainuddin were arrested on 29 November, 2022, for smuggling cocaine worth ₹360 crore.
DMK functionaries Praveen and Ekkambaram were arrested on 4 January this year for harassing a woman police constable during a DMK public meeting held in Chennai. Later, the constable withdrew her complaint for reasons best known to her.
The video clip of DMK Salem South Union Secretary T Manickam verbally abusing a Dalit youth for entering a temple went viral on social media on 30 January.
In Salem, On 3 February an FIR was filed against a DMK councillor Punitha Sundaram on the charges of threatening people who questioned her for selling construction material meant for government projects.
In Krishnagiri, on 15 February, DMK councillor Chinnasamy was arrested on the charges of killing an army jawan.
On 20 February this year, a senior citizen, Gunasekaran, attempted to immolate himself outside the Chennai collector’s office alleging that his land had been illegally grabbed by JK Manigandan, a district councillor of the DMK.
In Madurai, DMK councillor Jayachandran was arrested on 28 February for selling the lands owned by the famous Kallazhagar temple.
More recently, In Tiruvallur, on 12 March, DMK councillor Elango and his aides were accused of beating a man to death for speaking against him. The councillor, with his henchmen, also interfered in a property dispute and attacked women.
Learning from mistakes
Speaking to South First, K Singarayan, a veteran communist leader, said: “When Jayalalithaa was alive, she used to say during election campaigns that if the DMK comes to power, the law and order situation of Tamil Nadu would deteriorate, and this had an impact, to an extent, on the minds of the public as far as the image of the DMK is concerned.”
“It is true to some extent. During the last DMK regime (2006 -2011), the party functionaries were uncontrollable. They were involved in land-grabbing, assaulting the public, and even turned police stations into kangaroo courts. It was because of all these allegations that the DMK could not come to power for 10 years,” he contended.
Suggesting the party should learn lessons from past mistakes, Singarayan said that DMK high command should be more careful than ever when they are in power. “When a party disturbs the routine life of the public, they cannot win (elections) even if they spend crores of rupees,” he pointed out.
Srikumar Balakrishnan, a senior journalist, opined that every party has internal conflicts between groups, but it is rarely displayed in the public domain. But with the DMK, these are being showcased publicly.
Is Stalin losing his grip on party?
“Even after Stalin repeatedly asked the cadres to maintain decorum in public and not get involved in any kind of mischievous activities, the DMK functionaries continue to be involved in such activities. This just shows that Stalin is slowly losing his grip on the party. It will have a negative impact on his leadership” Srikumar told South First
He added: “Whether Karunanidhi was in power or not, he ensured single leadership control and kept the party on a tight leash. He allowed Stalin to take over the party only after his demise. But the present situation in the DMK is not like that.”
AIADMK spokesperson Kovai Sathyan told South First: “It is in the nature of DMK to disturb the public whenever they come to power. If DMK men can barge into a police station and attack a secured person, then think about the basic security of a common man in the state. People have started to realise the DMK is against peace in the state”.
DMK response: Digital era spreads everything fast
Speaking to South First on condition of anonymity, a DMK functionary attached to the headquarters said that every district unit has two or three senior functionaries.
“The power politics between two senior leaders are much more difficult to handle, and all the problems arise because of the aides/supporters of those senior leaders. It is while trying to show their loyalty to the senior leaders they are attached to that such untoward incidents happen,” he contended.
“These old-fashioned leaders should understand that earlier they had a time space to cover up the outburst of power politics, but in the digital era, the news spreads so fast and damages the reputation of the party,” he added.
When asked about criminal activities involving DMK functionaries, he said that they are removed from their posts and suspended from the party.
He also said that the DMK chief would take stringent action in future as well.