In a late evening announcement on Monday, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam said that party-man TKS Elangovan had been removed as spokesperson of the main opposition party in the state. This, soon after Elangovan was named as one of seven spokespersons officially authorised to attend media interviews on behalf of the party.
A press release, issued by the party’s General Secretary K Anbazhagan, came shortly after Elangovan, the 64-year-old Rajya Sabha MP and party old-timer, gave an interview to a Tamil television channel.
Speaking to Cauvery News, Elangovan was commenting on the invitees for a proposed unveiling of a copper statue of the late DMK President M Karunanidhi who passed away in Chennai on August 7.
Explaining that efforts were on to unveil the statue by November 15, Elangovan said, “Congress' Sonia Gandhi and many other national leaders have been invited. We believe they will attend. We don't know when Parliament will reconvene. The statue unveiling will take place on a day that is convenient for them to attend.”
To a question on whether Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam of the ruling AIADMK would be invited, he said, "So far we have not sent them invites for party events. That will continue."
When confronted on why the party had taken such a stance, given that the AIADMK had invited them for the birth centenary celebrations of former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran, Elangovan said, “AIADMK did not celebrate MGR’s birth centenary. There have been no invites(to us) for their party events. To invite Members of the Legislative Assembly and Parliament for government functions is as per law. It is not a norm to invite AIADMK leaders(to our party events). We have only always invited allied parties.”
DMK sources say that this response was not in line with any official decision taken by the party. A source close to Stalin said that an official decision on who will be invited had not been taken, and therefore TKS Elangovan had jumped the gun. According to him, there have been other instances in the recent past where TKS had commented on crucial issues like Alagiri's rebellion and not stuck to the official party line.
The source also added that a meeting had been organised at the DMK headquarters three days ago in which the newly-appointed spokespersons were asked not to 'speak out of turn'.
Soon-to-be faced with two assembly by-polls and Lok Sabha elections in what has been a multi-year electoral dry spell for the DMK, Stalin seems to be sending senior party leaders the message that they must fall in line with his leadership. Ousting a senior member like TKS Elangovan as spokesperson also comes at a time when Stalin is said to be bolstering his image within the party, picking his lot of the district functionaries and surrounding himself with loyalists. Elangovan is viewed as being close to DMK's Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi. Curiously though, former AIADMK chief late J Jayalalithaa also had the penchant for removing people from posts in the party quite often, regardless of their seniority.
With the death of Karunanidhi elevating him to the top job in the party, the Opposition Leader in the state appears bent on harping on his late father’s larger-than-life image.
In August this year, a memorial meet for the late Karunanidhi witnessed a galaxy of political leaders arrive in Chennai, calling upon Stalin to take up the mantle and carry forward his father’s legacy.
Stalin, who was elected only the second President of the 69-year-old party on August 28, made it clear that he intended to ‘decimate’ the BJP at the Centre in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. However, it remains to be seen if this strongman-style leadership would sit well with other senior DMK leaders who were allowed to evolve and come into their own under the leadership of the late Karunanidhi.