India Politics
Three die in Tamil Nadu political war
May 9, 2007 - 10:36:02 PM

Madurai, May 9 - The succession war in Tamil Nadu's first family erupted in bloodshed Wednesday leaving three newspaper employees dead, large parts of the state in ferment and the running feud between Chief Minister M.K. Karunanidhi's two sons mired in blood.

At the end of a day of drama and violence, Karunanidhi vowed to punish the guilty following widespread violence blamed on hundreds of supporters of his elder son M.K Azhagiri.

'Whoever is guilty will be brought to book, whatever it takes,' the chief minister said in a brief statement in Chennai.

The trigger for Wednesday's trouble was a survey published in the Dinakaran newspaper that stated over 70 percent of people in Tamil Nadu preferred M.K. Stalin, the younger son of Karunanidhi, as his political heir rather than Azhagiri.

The survey's findings as reported by the newspaper, which is owned by the Sun Group of Kalanidhi Maran, elder brother of India's Telecommunications Minister Dayanidhi Maran, also showed Azhagiri in poor light vis-a-vis Stalin in terms of popularity.

Incensed by the publication, Azhagiri's supporters stormed the Dinakaran office and went on a rampage, killing two computer operators and a watchman, injuring some others and destroying the newspapers' property.

In no time, the violence spilled onto the streets in Madurai, where Azhagiri is based, and several adjoining districts, leading to arson and blockade of traffic on major highways.

Armed gangs roamed the streets of Madurai, throwing petrol bombs, smashing windows of buildings, burnings piles of the newspaper and shouting slogans hailing Azhagiri.

Several groups staged roadblocks and protests throughout the day.

As journalists in the state expressed shock over the incident, Azhagiri attributed an 'ulterior motive' to the survey published by Dinakaran.

Wednesday's violence came at a time when Karunanidhi is busy preparing to celebrate 50 years in politics - a landmark achievement for any Indian politician.

'There is an ulterior motive behind the survey. Why should they cause agony and bitterness when the chief minister is celebrating 50 years in politics?' Azhagiri said.

The newspaper employees were furious.

'Our colleagues have died. We will sit here as long as we do not get justice. Beat us and kill us too,' said one of them to policemen and the district collector who wanted them to disperse from their premises.

Police reported violence from Cumbum, Theni, Kamuthi, Gudalur, Dindigul, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts as well. At least 35 people were arrested from various parts of Madurai and other cities.

In the published survey, only two percent reportedly opted for Azhagiri and another two percent rooted for Kanimozhi, Karunanidhi's daughter. The survey was conducted in association with A.C. Nielsen.

In Chennai, 68 percent of the people reportedly preferred Stalin and one percent Kanimozhi while Azhagiri drew a blank.

Azhagiri has for long been in charge of party affairs in the southern districts of the state and has his base in Madurai. But even here he was the choice of only six percent of the people, according to the survey.

Karunanidhi had found himself in trouble only the day before when another poll published in Dinakaran on 'Who is the best minister at the centre from Tamil Nadu?' placed Dayanidhi Maran at the top and union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, son of ally PMK leader S. Ramadoss, somewhere at the bottom.

The PMK chief protested vehemently, forcing Karunanidhi to denounce the Dinakaran poll.

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