Chennai, Aug 28 (IANS) For the 65-year-old M.K.Stalin – called affectionately as Thalapathi or Commander by his colleagues – the long wait to head one of the country’s oldest political parties, the DMK, got over on Tuesday.
Stalin’s coronation as the DMK’s second President was a smooth smooth affair at the party headquarters here as he was elected unopposed as all the 65 district secretaries of the party had proposed his name.
DMK General Secretary K. Anbazhagan said 1,307 party officials had proposed and seconded Stalin’s candidature.
Stalin was given the role of Working President in January 2017 after Karunanidhi was largely confined to his home due to age-related ailments.
Born on March 1, 1953 to Karunanidhi and Dayalu Ammal, Stalin was named after the Russian leader Joseph Stalin who died on March 5, 1953 – four days after Stalin’s birth. Legend has it that Karunanidhi wanted to name him ‘Ayyadurai’ – taking from DK founder ‘Periyar’ E.V. Ramasamy and DMK founder C.N. Annadurai.
Like his famed multi-faceted father who entered public life at the age of 14, Stalin too started his political journey by becoming an ordinary member of the DMK at the age of 14 and campaigning for the party in 1967.
A year earlier he had formed a youth forum: Gopalapuram Youth DMK.
But Stalin came to public notice at large when he was jailed under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) for opposing the imposition of Emergency by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
He became the party’s youth wing secretary in 1984 and continued to hold that post for a long time.
But unlike Karunanidhi who did not lose even any of the 13 Assembly elections he had contested, Stalin lost twice — both from Thousand Lights constituency in Chennai — in 1984 and 1991.
Stalin has won six Assembly polls — four times from Thousand Lights and twice from Kolathur constituency. He made his debut in the Assembly from Thousand Lights in 1989.
He was Local Administration Minister in the Karunanidhi government and became Deputy Chief Minister in 2009 and stayed in the post till 2011.
With his aged father not able to move about much, Stalin launched himself as the lead campaigner for DMK in the 2016 Assembly elections, winning 89 seats and narrowly missing victory against the more charismatic J. Jayalalithaa.
Stalin became the Leader of the Opposition. But the party suffered a shock defeat losing security deposit in the by-election from R.K. Nagar constituency in Chennai, a seat held by Jayalalithaa. The by-election was won by T.T.V. Dhinakaran, a rebel AIADMK leader.
Stalin was the Chennai mayor in 1996-2001 and 2001-02. He was also the Minister for Municipal Administration in 2006 and later the first Deputy Chief Minister in 2009-11. He was also the party Treasurer till now.
During his Mayorship, the Chennai Corporation built several flyovers to ease the traffic flow. The AIADMK government headed by late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa had arrested Stalin for alleged corruption in building the flyovers.
Even Karunanidhi had once openly declared that if he had a chance then he would announce Stalin as his successor but took various steps that virtually anointed him as his heir.
But Stalin’s elder brother and former Union Minister M.K. Alagiri – then incharge of the party affairs in the southern districts – opposed it and said he cannot think anybody else as his leader than Karunanidhi.
Later Alagiri was dismissed from the party for anti-party activities.
Meanwhile, Stalin started taking a strong hold of the party reins following indisposition of Karunanidhi during the past couple of years.
Stalin may have some immediate electoral challenge in the ensuing by-elections in two Assembly constituencies Tiruvarur (vacant after Karunanidhi’s death) and Tiruparankundran (vacant after the death of AIADMK lawmaker A.K. Bose).
There is also a complaint that Stalin as the Working President was not able to lure some of the disgruntled AIADMK legislators and come to power.
Alagiri has announced plans to hold a rally in Chennai early next month to show his strength. On Monday, he warned that if he was not taken back into the party, then DMK would have to face “consequences”.
The Alagiri-Stalin rivalry has plagued the DMK for a long time but Karunanidhi kept a fragile peace.
Stalini is married to Durga, a believer, and the couple have two children – Udayanidhi and Senthamarai. Stalin also had acted in two movies and in two television serials.
Succeeding an illustrious leader, who was also his father, Stalin will also be under intense scrutiny and would be compared with Karunanidhi for a long time to come.
It may take some time and some election victories for Stalin to come out of his father’s shadows.