It was an unusual scene for the DMK party men in Trichy. Rajya Sabha MP Trichy Siva and Municipal Administration Minister K.N. Nehru came together shaking hands with each other and posing for a photo in front of a broken car. The supporters of Siva and Nehru stood beside them clapping hands and smiling at each other. The two leaders resolved to “never allow any internal feud to erupt within the party.”
“An incident that should not have happened occurred in the house of a party man. Our Chief minister told me to placate Siva and convey to the people that we had no issues,” Nehru told the media after meeting Siva. “Whatever happened has happened. But let henceforth, what happens in the future, happen for the good,” an anguished Siva told the media.
A few days before, the simmering internal rift spilt out in the open. Parliamentarian Trichy Siva’s house in Trichy was vandalised, his car windows were broken after one of his supporters showed black fag during the inauguration of a badminton court. The reason being Siva and his supporters getting sidelined in such events. After the black flag incident, Nehru's supporters went on a rampage and attacked Siva’s house. Note that his supporters barged into a sessions court police station, injuring a woman constable.
Hours later, the party high command in Chennai announced disciplinary action against four supporters of Nehru. A day later, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK leader M.K. Stalin, reportedly asked Nehru and Siva to bury their hatchet for the good of the party. Following this, Siva and Nehru came together and shook hands with smiling face.
But for now, the DMK leadership has managed to prevent a huge embarrassment by ensuring that Nehru and Siva got together. However, the factional feud and the rumblings within the party are far from over. In Trichy itself, the party is divided into two factions, one led by Nehru and the other by School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh. Apparently, the factional differences were one of the major reasons for the top leadership to give two ministerial berths to Trichy district. The two, according to sources in the Trichy unit of the DMK, are like the local kings controlling every party activity. “They are actually crushing the party,” tells a functionary from the Trichy unit on conditions of anonymity.
In fact, the Nehru-Siva supporters clash, according to the insiders, was because of the growing community feud in the Trichy unit of the DMK. Nehru hails from the most popular Mutharaiyar community while Siva and School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi belong to the Kallar community popularly known as the Thevars in Southern Tamil Nadu. Sources also say that Siva’s men were instigated by Mahesh and his supporters to raise voice against Nehru, which led to the open fight.
Incidentally, whenever DMK rises to power, their inner party quarrel spills to the streets and it has been proved yet again. In Tirunelveli too, the DMK Mayor P.M. Saravanan has been facing a strong rebellion from his own party councillors. At least 30 of the 45 councillors have petitioned to the party high command to replace the mayor. A few months before, there was friction between finance minister P.T.R. Palanivel Thiaga Rajan and his cabinet colleague from Madurai, P. Moorthy. In February 2022, a DMK functionary Selvam, who was also a local body poll candidate was hacked to death by four men, just days before the polls.
It may be recalled that the height of this bickering was seen in 2007 when the Dinakaran newspaper office in Madurai was set ablaze by M.K. Alagiri supporters for publishing a survey which did not approve Alagiri as a leader who will succeed M. Karunanidhi. Immediately after this, the details of the 2G scam against Kanimozhi and A. Raja were leaked by the Marans in the Dinakaran newspaper.
Not long ago, when Karunanidhi was helming the party affairs as its President, the infighting in the Thanjavur unit of the DMK - between T.R. Baalu and S.S. Palanimanickam came out in the open. Similarly, the quarrel between Anita S. Radhakrishnan and N. Periyasamy spilled out in the streets. So was the inner bickering in Tirunelveli between supporters of Karuppasamy Pandian and former assembly speaker R. Avudaiyappan.
However, DMK’s inner bickering has always cost its election victory. In 2016, one of the major reasons for the party’s defeat in the assembly general election was the infighting. While Stalin has been aiming to bring a change at the Centre in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, his party men's infighting may lead to a defeat, similar to 2016, in some of the constituencies.