M K Stalin has been appointed as the working president of DMK following the ill health of his father and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, 92. The DMK general council met in Chennai Wednesday and elevated Stalin to the party’s top job. Stalin has been waiting for decades to step into his father’s shoes. And his long, patient wait has borne fruit at a crucial juncture in Tamil Nadu politics that is entering into an era minus its two veteran Dravidian leaders — an ailing Karunanidhi and the late J Jayalalithaa.
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“At a time when our leader is not well, I accept this position with a heavy heart,” said Stalin, after taking charge.
Stalin, now 63, has been in active politics ever since the Emergency in mid-1970s when he was arrested and tortured. It was a five-member party committee followed by a similar DMK party council called by Karunanidhi during the period that inducted Stalin into mainstream politics.
Except for a brief stint as a TV actor in the 1980s, Stalin has always been active in DMK. Unlike heir apparent of many other Indian politicians, Stalin waited for a decade to contest his first election, in his early 30s.
Later, he became the Chennai mayor in 1996 and proved to be one of the finest mayors that the city had seen in a long time. He became the deputy CM in 2009 where he had ample opportunities to display his administrative skills.
Unlike other DMK leaders such as A Raja or Dayanidhi Maran or his step-sister Kanimozhi, Stalin has been relatively untouched by any major corruption scandal throughout his long political career. The only charge that was raised against him was his alleged role in the death of Sadiq Basha in connection with the 2G case. However, nothing was proved against him in the case.
Stalin is seen as a person who has always respected the party hierarchy and had never challenged his father in public. However, from early 2014, Stalin has been wielding significant powers over the appointment of party functionaries in districts. Even Madurai, once a stronghold of his elder brother M K Alagiri, is now with Stalin. In fact, it was the tussle between Alagiri and Stalin that finally forced Karunanidhi to send his elder son to Madurai.
Stalin and Alagiri have had their own ways to assert their power. While Alagiri often went public with his displeasure, Stalin preferred to have relatives mediate between them.
Though Stalin is well-known for his patience, Karunanidhi was wary of handing over the reins to his son. Karunanidhi didn’t want to be known as the man who made his son the CM or the party chief.
Stalin has been accused of subduing other potential leaders within the party, actor-turned-politician Khushboo, who left DMK and joined Congress, is cited as one example.
Party sources indicate that the equation between Kanimozhi and Stalin is likely to improve in the coming months in the absence of Alagiri, the other power centre in the family.
Stalin has always maintained a studied distance from the leaders accused in the 2-G case, A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran. However, Raja was seen standing next to Stalin Wednesday morning as the latter emerged from the DMK council meeting.
In a conscious effort towards brand building, Stalin went on a statewide road show, ‘Namukku Naame’, before the last general elections, Interestingly, some of the brand managers who designed Modi’s campaigns designed Stalin’s too.
As for his own family, Stalin has a son Udayanidhi Stalin, an actor-cum-businessman with interests in entertainment industry, and son-in-law, V Sabarish, who is already considered quite powerful in the party.