It is celebration time in Madurai! For, so swift and sudden has been the change that it has lifted the people of this temple city from their despondency. With a new government taking over, the air of freedom seems all pervasive in the former fiefdom of M K Alagiri.”What next?” is the question that invariably lingers in the minds of the people, who are secretly gleeful at the increasing discomfiture of the Union Minister.With his close aides in jail, the DMK patriarch’s elder son is rattled at the prospect of his turn being perilously close. These were the people with whom the ‘Prince’ ruled the southern districts, holding his court in Madurai. Now his wings have been clipped. The sheen of invincibility too has vanished, resulting in his isolation.Alarm bells started ringing when the police first laid their hands on ‘Pottu’ Suresh, a school drop-out turned Man Friday of the Union Minister. Widely seen as the alter-ego of his master, he came to wield immense power with many bureaucrats, seeking transfers and plum postings, waiting for his appointment. So much so, Jayalalithaa chose to call him Deputy CM as Alagiri was considered the CM of the Southern districts.It was a meteoric rise for someone who was an unsuccessful roadside vendor close to two decades ago. Earlier, Suresh was known with the prefixes ‘nighty’ and ‘bajji’ for selling women’s accessories and then hot ‘bajji’ in the Town Hall Road. Sporting a huge tilak (‘pottu’ in Tamil) after associating with netas, it became his new identity. His final destination was Alagiri and within a short period of time, he edged out old timers and entered the Minister’s inner circle. “Pottu’s words are mine and should be complied with,” was Alagiri’s reported diktat.advertisementNone of the DMK leader’s courtiers, who gained prominence and power, had any stature. Neither were they from the party ranks nor from the family association. The less said the better about their vice- like grip. In spite of their humble beginnings, they have come to flaunt huge wealth which, even the DMK old timers could not digest. Worse, they were despised by the public for unleashing a reign of terror. The more notoriety they earned, the more dependable they became for their master.Doing his bidding without any hesitation is their only creed. No wonder, with the DMK’s crushing defeat in the assembly poll Alagiri’s cronies were expected to face the music. But, none had expected that the crackdown would expose and disarm the ‘ Prince of Madurai’ so soon.His lieutenants who landed in prison include, ‘Attack’ Pandi, an accused in the Dinakaran attack case, G Thalapathy, former MLA, and ‘Essar’ Gopi, accused in the murder of former DMK Minister Tha Kiruttinan. Those awaiting police action include Deputy Mayor P M Mannan, also an accused in the Kiruttinan case.These are only samples as the list is not exhaustive.More than keeping them as henchmen, the DMK satrap went a step ahead by elevating them as senior functionaries in the party. Ever since the pyrrhic victory in the 2009 Tirumangalam bypoll, which was the beginning of the cash for vote syndrome, Alagiri’s writ was never challenged. Despite their criminal background, he got his associates elevated to the DMK Executive Committee as well.Though the Dinakaran and Kiruttinan cases ended in acquittal, the spectre of their revival has come to haunt Alagiri and his associates.As the noose is tightening around Alagiri, no tears are shed either in the party or in the city, which he has made his home for well over two decades. ‘He who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind’ is the reason proffered by the ordinary citizen about the fate that has befallen the DMK strongman and his associates.A man is judged by the company he keeps. It is more so in public life where none can escape scrutiny of one’s conduct.This is particularly true of Alagiri, who, given a long rope by his octogenarian father, turned out to be a law unto himself.He has no literary or intellectual pretensions like his father, who keeps the company of discredited writers and poets, to sing paeans. If the Dravidian movement could be called as anti- intellectual and anti-democratic for parading the halfbaked as scholars and thugs as leaders in the public domain, Alagiri could well be seen as its logical culmination.Wily Marans bunk DMK rally When the DMK took to the streets protesting Jayalalithaa’s ‘politics of vendetta’, one man invited the wrath of party workers by being conspicuous by his absence – Dayanidhi Maran. Both the Marans have flown to distant Indonesia where they are holidaying with their families. The DMK rank and file is not ready to forgive the indiscretion of the duo, who are seen as parasitic time servers. Their grouse is that the Marans consider themselves above the party. Having enjoyed power, they were expected to stand by the party at the time of distress is the chorus in DMK circles.advertisementMaybe mounting troubles could have forced them to stay away from the massive protest in which over one lakh party workers, led by the M K Stalin, courted arrest. With the patriarch taking a back seat, it was left to his younger son to shoulder the leadership. Even a limping Khushboo was seen getting into the police vehicle, raising the morale of the party which is reeling under the ruthless crackdown by the AIADMK government.And this being the first major agitation of the DMK after the humiliating electoral defeat, Maran junior’s absence was not taken kindly.Further, this has marginalised him after his exit from the Union Cabinet. “Are they attempting to make peace with the czarina in order to protect their business interest?” is also a question that is doing the rounds.Babus to face music nowAfter the netas, it’s the turn of babus who ruled the roost during the Karunanidhi regime to face the music. ADGP Jaffer Sait, former state Intelligence chief, has been placed under suspension. This follows a vigilance raid last week at the residences of Sait, his relatives and close associates.He has been charged with acquiring a prime plot in the name of his wife under the social worker category and building flats for sale together with another aide of Karunanidhi. In the run-up to the assembly poll, the EC transferred him to West Bengal following allegations by the Opposition. He preferred to go on leave and was vacationing in Bangkok. The buzz in the corridors of power is who will be the next to face the music.Left gets it wrong, againOnce again the Marxists have proved that they are twice removed from reality. On the emotive issue of Eelam, the CPI(M) has been treading the beaten path, by calling for unity among Tamils and Sinhalese. But, in the aftermath of the colossal human tragedy in Sri Lanka, the party’s formulation has made it a laughing stock among the pro-Tamil groups.In mobilising public opinion it is no match for its Dravidian counterparts. Concerned at the CPI too marching ahead of it in raising this issue, the party General Secretary Parakash Karat came here last week to parrot the worn out formulations. Even its sympathisers are red faced at the party living in the past. Will the Marxists see sense?Jaya seeks to revive dam dispute With Jayalalithaa back in the saddle, the Mullaiperiyar (Mullaperiyar in Kerala) dam issue could gain added momentum.advertisementIt is the lifeline of the six southern districts of Tamil Nadu which are facing the threat of desertification as storage level has been brought down to 136 in 1979 following Kerala raising safety concerns. Later the dam structure was strengthened as per Centre Water Commission guidelines. But, storage is no more the bone of contention with Kerala now pressing for a new dam even after the Supreme Court ordered reverting storage to the original 152 ft in phases.As a first step towards protecting her turf, Jayalalithaa has opposed the Centre’s Dam Safety Bill, objecting to certain clauses which she finds are detrimental to the state. As in all other issues, her bte noire Karunanidhi stands discredited.He had called off a fast due to pressure from the Congress. This presents her an opportunity to outsmart the old fox. Further, it would help her to rob the wind out of the sails of Vaiko and other pro-Tamil parties whose voice has turned shrill against Kerala.