At 90, DMK chief Muthuvel Karunanidhi carries the onerous task of pulling the battered party back to winning ways in a virtual do-or-die electoral battle, just two years ahead of next Assembly elections.
A master orator, who sways the audience with his splash of anecdotes and chirpy remarks besides loaded statements, the DMK patriarch is on an age-defying and punishing election schedule, carrying the burden of resetting the party's fortunes, albeit moving on a wheel-chair. The five-time chief minister is facing the unenviable task of blunting the challenge posed by his Madurai-based son and expelled leader M K Alagiri, who has set out on a mission to spoil the chances of some of the DMK candidates, including bigwig T R Baalu in Thanjavur.
The family feud triggered factionalism in the party, and especially in its Madurai unit, cost Alagiri dearly, who has alleged his younger brother M K Stalin's stamp was writ all over the selection of candidates, which has widened the split.
Suffering a severe blow in the 2011 Assembly elections -- DMK even failed to become main Opposition party conceding it to then AIADMK ally DMDK -- Karunanidhi had to weather domestic storms as his sons are locked in a dispute over who will be his political heir.The DMK chief himself has given enough indications that he preferred the Chennai-based younger son Stalin.
As the leader of the party, Karunanidhi is leaving no stone unturned to secure maximum number of MPs from the 39 constituencies in Tamil Nadu and one in adjoining Puducherry and is not only harping on his party's policies and previous achievements but targeting his bete noire AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa over a number of issues. The DMK chief is making the disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa, filed during the DMK regime in 1996-2001 and pending in a Bangalore court, the main weapon in his arsenal.
Painstakingly, he lists out finer details of the property involved as well as the case, and faces enemy fire from Jayalalithaa who questions him on the various 'betrayals' by his party of the people despite being in power at the Centre and heading state governments. A 11-time MLA known for his political acumen, Karunanidhi is likely to utilise the party's performance in the upcoming elections as self-assessment ahead of the 2016 Assembly polls.
Incidentally in 2004, when Jayalalithaa was leading the Government in Tamil Nadu, the DMK chief, who had walked out of the BJP-led NDA, struck an alliance with Congress, only to net all the 40 seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and rise as an influential figure in the UPA. His party went on win the 2006 Assembly elections and formed the government under his leadership where Stalin made his debut as a Minister.
Will Karunanidhi, a successful screenplay-writer for many films including thespian actor Sivaji Ganesan's debut 'Parasakthi,' in the 1950s, script a victory for his party remains to be seen on May 16, the counting day.