Chennai: M.K. Stalin moved a step closer to succeeding M. Karunanidhi as the DMK president when he filed his papers for the DMK’s top job held for 50 years by his father.
Along with Stalin, senior DMK leader Durai Murugan filed his nomination for the post of treasurer being vacated by Stalin. Though Stalin, as working president of the party from Feb 2017, has been piloting the DMK since Karunanidhi’s retirement owing to illness, his formal succession marks a watershed moment in DMK history. After Karunanidhi, he will be the second president as party founder Annadurai had only been the general secretary till his death keeping the president’s post vacant in respectful reservation for his mentor Periyar.
Though viewed and recognised all along as the chosen successor of Karunanidhi — his father himself had said that in so many words and so many times — Stalin unlike many other heirs in Indian politics did not parachute into the top post. He has been through the grind as secretary of the youth wing and the treasurer in the party, besides being an MLA, the Chennai Mayor, a Minister and Deputy Chief Minister in his father’s government.
Stalin’s elevation is also a decisive development aimed at quelling any rebellion that his elder brother M.K. Alagiri might be plotting. By getting all the 65 district secretaries to endorse his nomination as president, Stalin and his supporters have pre-empted Alagiri who has announced a memorial rally for his father at Chennai on September 5. “We are the party and we are fully behind Stalin. That message will be sent out loud and clear by the general council on Tuesday”, said a party senior.
In the absence of Karunanidhi’s multi-dimensional personality and charismatic captaincy, Stalin will have to prove his leadership abilities in the coming days. He has been trying to re-jig the party in the last one year by appointing new district secretaries in west and south and weeding out dead wood, especially after the deposit-losing performance in the R.K. Nagar by-election.
Once he has been proclaimed as the undisputed leader of the party, Stalin has to prepare the DMK for the coming Lok Sabha elections to ensure his party emerges with the largest number of MPs from Tamil Nadu in 2019. The party had drawn a blank in 2014 after it ejected the Congress out of the alliance. Not only did the DMK revive the alliance with the Congress for the 2016 Assembly elections but has also expanded its front by including the left parties, VCK and the MDMK.
Though Stalin had spearheaded the DMK’s campaign in the 2016 assembly elections, the party fell short of a majority by a one per cent overall vote margin.
Till now, the DMK has not made any serious attempt to topple the Palaniswami government, even though it is in a minority.
If the 18 MLAs case goes against the ruling AIADMK, then Stalin’s political skills will be under scrutiny. If he can get the government voted out and force an Assembly election along with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he would sure enjoy an edge as the leader of largest political grouping while his principal rival, the AIADMK, remains splintered as an organisation and its regime burdened by the inevitable anti-incumbency public mood.