His suspension and subsequent expulsion from the DMK was preceded by a poster war in Madurai. But as M K Alagiri — fondly called ‘Annan Anjanenjan’ (braveheart) by his supporters — begins a silent campaign to ensure the defeat of the DMK candidate in the temple town, hoardings and posters hailing him or conveying a subtle message are not seen. Instead, his followers are armed with the voters list.
The Alagiri-Stalin rift or the impact of his expulsion from the DMK is not visible on the ground in Madurai but is palpable among the party cadre. On Tuesday, Alagiri addressed a closed-door meeting with supporters and asked them to vote against the DMK. The operation is planned to the minute detail. A list of party cadre in the city has been prepared from the voters list and they would be conveyed his message.
“Velusamy would be pushed to the third or fourth spot,” Alagiri said.
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“We will go to each ward in Madurai to tap our supporters. Even if we swing 300 votes against him in each ward, Velusamy will face a defeat which he will remember all his life,” said Ashok, a self-proclaimed Alagiri supporter waiting outside his leader’s T V S Nagar residence to meet him.
Out of the nine zonal heads of Madurai, five owe allegiance to Alagiri although the district committee is packed with Stalin men. Many of the councillors too are Alagiri supporters.
Even in Theni, where Alagiri wants the defeat of DMK candidate Pon Muthuramalingam, a word-of-mouth campaign is underway. His supporters are not indulging in theatrics this time around as Alagiri wants to avoid an open showdown and draw his father Karunanidhi’s ire once again. He, however, wants to show his clout and hopes to return to the DMK after elections on its basis.
From Kanyakumari in south to Coimbatore in north, he is attending private family functions of his supporters and wherever he goes he is delivering the defeat DMK message.
But while Alagiri may have the ability to ensure the defeat of the DMK nominee in Madurai, his influence outside the constituency and in the southern districts is debatable. It is another matter that in the multi-cornered contest Tamil Nadu is witnessing now, every vote is going to be significant and Alagiri’s role crucial.
He had delivered nine out of the 10 seats in southern Tamil Nadu to the DMK in the last general elections. But things have changed. Even in Madurai district, his influence had come under question after the AIADMK and its allies won all the 10 seats in the 2011 Assembly elections. A repeat of the AIADMK performance this time, however, will have a different interpretation and the DMK defeat will be credited to Alagiri.
Outside Madurai, he no more enjoys the absolute clout he once had among the party cadre. “We respect him. But when the Thalaivar (leader) has expelled him, we will have to abide by the party decision,” said Selvan, a DMK worker in neighbouring Sivagangai who claimed to be an Alagiri supporter earlier.Many of his loyalists have deserted him and switched to Stalin’s camp in recent times. Alagiri himself admitted that none of the district secretaries — powerful in the DMK organisational structure — are with him. “He has taken them all,” he said, referring to Stalin.