Coimbatore, July 24: Upset with the blatant attempts of his younger son M K Stalin's supporters to bring up the succession issue, DMK chief M Karunanidhi on Saturday said he was willing to resign from his post "for the sake of the party's future". He made the statement on the first day of the party's two-day conference in Coimbatore, reports Times of India.
As expected, the deliberations began on a fiery note, with Karunanidhi walking out in a huff, abruptly ending the executive committee meeting.
He indicated that he was willing to step down as party chief in favour of his son if it would help the DMK. But he also flashed the sentimental card to rebuff any challenge to his leadership.
Making it clear that he was disturbed by Stalin's supporters campaigning for his immediate elevation to the top post in the party, the former CM said, "If anyone here feels that I should quit, then I will do so for the sake of the party."
"You are trying to create a rift between Stalin and me. If need be, I am ready to quit," Karunanidhi said at the closed-door meeting in Coimbatore.
Organized in Singanallur in western Tamil Nadu, which has a sizeable number of Stalin supporters, the two-day executive committee and general council meeting is the first big event for the DMK after the assembly election debacle.
About 350 members participated in the executive committee meeting which kicked off the two-day deliberations, meant to be a retrospection of the party's poor showing in the polls.
Union minister and Karunanidhi's older son M K Alagiri, Stalin, grandnephew Dayanidhi Maran, who recently resigned as Union minister, and wife and Kanimozhi's mother, Rajathi Ammal, were among those present at the meeting.
The deliberations began on a "constructive" note, with members, led by Karunanidhi, analyzing the reasons for the poll defeat and urging the gathering to equally share the blame for it.
Some speakers even demanded that the DMK snap ties with the Congress, describing it as an "undependable ally".
A member wondered why the party was still part of the UPA alliance when Kanimozhi "continued to face the spectrum ordeal".
Former minister and the DMK's Salem strongman, Veerapandi Arumugam, facing land grab charges, demanded that the party dump the Congress.
But the first signs of trouble emerged when Stalin's supporters began to speak. "At least fivesix members praised Stalin and spoke at length about the "sacrifices" he has made.
They said he was the only capable leader to succeed Kalaignar (Karunanidhi)," a senior leader and executive member, told TOI.
As if on cue, a senior functionary from Theni, known to be an Alagiri supporter, rose to point out that Stalin only did what was expected of him.
At this point, Union minister of state for finance S S Palanimanickam intervened and wanted to know why the issue of succession was being raised when the forum was meant for discussing restructuring and rebuilding the party.
Yet another Karunanidhi associate, former law minister Duraimurugam, pointed out that when Kalaignar was still the party chief there was no need to bring up the succession issue.
K Anbalagan, DMK general secretary and second-in-command, another Karunanidhi contemporary, declared, "We cannot accept you (Stalin) when he (Karunanidhi) is here. If Kalaignar quits, then I will also not hold this post." He advised the gathering to leave behind the succession issue when they meet again on Sunday.
He said, "The main agenda of the meeting is how to rebuild the party and not to find Kalaignar's successor." Neither Alagiri nor Stalin spoke at the meeting.
Meanwhile, the DMK, at a crucial meeting of its highest policy-making body, on Sunday flayed the CBI for opposing Kanimozhi's bail in 2G scam case, saying that the agency's action was discriminatory.
The DMK General Council remained silent on the party's ties with Congress. The party meet favoured bringing the Prime Minister under the ambit of Lokpal.