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His father’s heir

Two decades ago,returning to the Chief Minister’s chair after a long gap,M Karunanidhi reportedly quoted Couplet 70 from the masterpiece....

To sire,what best requital can by grateful child be done?/ To make men say ‘what merit gained the father such a son!’ Couplet 70,Thirukkural

Two decades ago,returning to the Chief Minister’s chair after a long gap,M Karunanidhi reportedly quoted Couplet 70 from the masterpiece of Tamil literature,Thirukkural,to appreciate the work done by his younger son,M K Stalin,in getting him where he was. Like in the case of Rahul Gandhi after the recent general elections,it was then said that Stalin worked hard in the background to make the success possible. On May 29,after being named the heir-apparent 20 years ago,Stalin has taken one step closer to succeeding Karunanidhi as the Chief Minister and president of the party.

Born in the family of one of the most active leaders of Tamil Nadu,Stalin was home-schooled in politics,starting his own political career in 1973 as a general council member of the DMK. After Emergency was declared in 1975,the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) brought into prominence many politicians in Tamil Nadu,including Stalin. In January,1976,he was among the many who were arrested and put behind bars. By the time he was released,a few days short of one year,his profile had gone up a notch higher.

But its protest against the ‘undemocratic’ Emergency did not win the DMK the Assembly elections,when MGR heading the splinter party AIADMK won way above the half-way mark in 1977. In 1980,DMK formed a youth wing with a seven-member committee to oversee its functioning. By then,Stalin had become an active politician,rising to the second-tier of the party leadership. Soon,he became its secretary.

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It was evident by this time that Stalin had been ‘chosen’ by Karunanidhi as his political heir. Stalin’s elder brother Azhagiri was relocated to Madurai to look after the Madurai edition of party mouthpiece Murasoli,though many saw it as a move to clear the path for Stalin.

In 1996,Stalin was appointed the mayor of Madras City Corporation,even as he served as the MLA from Thousand Lights constituency. While Stalin won both as mayor and MLA again in 2001,Karunanidhi was by then replaced by AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa. She brought in two amendments that barred anyone from holding two elected posts simultaneously.

In the meantime,Azhagiri had gained in prominence. When his choice of candidates was overlooked,the official candidates including DMK heavyweights lost the 2001 elections. Things turned ugly when supporters of the brothers refused to work together either in the party or as elected members in local bodies.

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A truce was achieved in 2004,when the DMK and the alliance it led swept the general elections. In 2006,his fourth term as MLA,Stalin was made the state Local Administration and Rural Development Minister. In the party ranks,he was the deputy general secretary,number four in the hierarchy. The Maran-owned Dinakaran daily survey that put him as the top contender to succeed Karunanidhi was not unexpected,nor was Azhagiri’s place at the bottom. In the stir that followed,three staff members of the daily were killed in arson at their Madurai edition office and Dayanidhi Maran was removed as the Cabinet Minister for IT and Telecom. Stalin later tried to broker peace between Karunanidhi and the Marans,which finally took place last December. He had also been elected as the DMK treasurer,a position once held by Karunanidhi and MGR,third in line after president Karunanidhi and general secretary K Anbazhagan.

In Karunanidhi’s absence due to health problems,Stalin was the main negotiator for the party during seat-sharing discussions and the chief campaigner for the alliance. The hard-fought victory and his brother’s induction into the Union Cabinet gave rise to more speculation that Stalin would be made Deputy CM.

The decision was internally finalised on the day when Azhagiri took oath. Stalin’s official website,announcing the news,said he had become the number two in line,ahead of Anbazhagan. Accused of nepotism,Karunanidhi got officials to issue a statement on Saturday,clarifying that while Stalin is the Deputy to the Chief Minister,he is still number three. At least for the time being.

First published on: 01-06-2009 at 12:50:36 am
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