TAMIL NADU

Stalin toes party line

CHENNAI May 22. The former Chennai Mayor and DMK president, M.Karunanidhi's son, M.K.Stalin, chose to toe the party line on the arrest of his brother M.K.Azhagiri, a move that would have far-reaching implications for his standing in the party.

``Ever since the AIADMK Government has come to power, it has been indulging in targeting the DMK. Mr.Azhagiri's arrest is one more instance of this. The DMK president has said that the party would face this legally. I am repeating what he said,'' Mr. Stalin said at the Chennai airport, after he arrived from Chicago.

Mr.Stalin cut short his U.S. visit following the killing of the former Highways Minister and senior DMK leader, Pasumpon Tha.Kiruttinan, on Tuesday. He had been to the U.S. to enquire the condition of the Union Minister, Murasoli Maran.

Targeting DMK leaders had been the main achievement of the AIADMK Government and he was not surprised that the police chose to arrest Mr.Azhagiri.

The Government effort seemed to focus on causing the DMK maximum damage. There was no attempt to conduct an impartial investigation, he said.

On the widespread view that the killing was a result of the intra-party rivalry, Mr. Stalin stuck to the party line again: no party was above factionalism. ``In any party elections, there will be problems and fighting. This is part of the functioning of a party. But once the elections are over, partymen rally round leaders.''

`Motivated question'

But he refused to answer whether the factionalism within the DMK was responsible for the killing of the former Minister, saying he would not answer motivated questions. Mr. Stalin also declined to comment on Kiruttinan's wife holding Mr.Azhagiri responsible for the murder.

Significantly, Mr.Stalin did not back up giving Mr. Azhagiri a clean chit by paying a visit to the Tiruchi jail, where the DMK strongman is lodged.

In fact, he parried a question to this effect earlier, saying that he would talk to the DMK leadership on issues emerging out of the murder and the arrest.

Sources close to Mr.Stalin said the leader would conduct himself exactly the way leadership wants to.

They claimed that he had not let down his supporters in any manner.

These were very difficult times and the situation demanded sacrifices from everyone.

The thinking seems to be that it is not the cadres who elect leaders, despite party elections. It is the pleasure of the leadership, which is the clinching factor.

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