await MK Stalin, deputy general secretary of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
(DMK), and son of party chief M. Karunanidhi. It is only a question
of time when he would succeed his father as leader of the party. Party
leaders say he would be the automatic successor to Karunanidhi, though
there are other senior leaders in the party. “There are no rivals
to Stalin in the party. He will lead the party after Karunanidhi,”
said a senior DMK leader. However, it might not be a coincidence that
the path is clear for Stalin’s smooth takeover of the party.
other son, MK Azhagiri, harboured hopes of succeeding his father.
But he saw to it that there were no
rivals to Stalin. In 2000, the DMK general secretary issued a
diktat to partymen to dissociate from Azhagiri
critics say the DMK chief had not only planned the growth of Stalin
in the party, but also saw to it that there were no rivals to him. At
one stage, Stalin’s brother MK Azhagiri harboured hopes of succeeding
his father. But he did not get the support of his father, who always
stood by Stalin. In 2000, DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan, presumably
under instructions from the party president, went to the extent of issuing
a diktat to partymen to dissociate themselves from Azhagiri. The move
was seen as a bid to clip Azhagiri’s wings and clear the path
for the smooth succession of Stalin. Stalin, who was regarded influential
in the northern districts till a few years ago, has of late managed
to extend his influence to the southern districts, which were considered
expulsion from the DMK has been linked to his rivalry with Stalin in
the party. “Stalin could not match Vaiko’s oratory. When
Vaiko became popular among party cadre in the late 80s, especially among
youth, Karunanidhi began to sideline him in the party. He was insulted
in the party and finally expelled in 1993,” says a senior Marumalarchi
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader.
Stalin became interested
in politics at a very young age. When he was in college, he was part
of a drama troupe that staged plays on political themes. His father
was not very happy about his involvement in theatre. “I was not
very good in studies,” admitted Stalin in an interview to Sun
News recently. Stalin completed his graduation in history from Chennai’s
Presidency College. There are stories about his ‘pranks’
as a student, when his father was CM.
Stalin was arrested
under misa along with several DMK leaders during the Emergency in 1976.
“His arrest under misa brought him into the political limelight,”
says a DMK leader. In 1982, the party constituted a five-member committee
to strengthen the youth wing. As a member of the committee, Stalin travelled
all over the state to build up the youth wing from scratch. In 1984,
he was appointed secretary of the youth wing. At 54, he continues to
hold the post.
During the 1984
Assembly elections, he lost from the Thousand Lights constituency. In
1989, he was elected from the same seat. He could not retain the seat
in 1991, when the Congress-AIAMDMK alliance swept the elections riding
the crest of a sympathy wave that followed Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.
In 1996, when the
DMK returned to power, he won one more time from the Thousand Lights
constituency. Soon, elections to local bodies were conducted throughout
the state. Corporation elections were held after 22 years. Stalin contested
for the post of Chennai mayor and won by a thumping majority. As mayor,
Stalin built several flyovers and handed over garbage collection and
disposal in parts of the city to a private agency.
In the 2001 Assembly
elections, Jayalalithaa returned to power. Stalin retained his Thousand
Lights seat. In June 2001, the AIAMDMK government arrested him and his
father on charges of corruption in the flyover case. But no chargesheet
has been filed in the case till date. In October 2001, he became mayor
once again after he defeated the AIAMDMK’s N. Balaganga in violence-marred
elections. The AIAMDMK government curtailed his financial powers. He
could not complete his second term as the government passed two Bills,
the Tamil Nadu Municipal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2002, and the Tamil Nadu
Panchayats (Second Amendment) Act, 2002, that prevented mlas and mps
from holding elected posts in local bodies.
Party leaders say
Stalin is quite committed to party ideologies, but does not harp on
them like his father. In true Periyar tradition, he is a rationalist
and does not consult astrologers like many politicians in the state.
He criticised actor Vijaykanth for starting a party on the advice of
in the party would admit on record that Stalin has been anointed
Karunanidhi’s successor. Stalin himself steers clear of
it. When he was the Chennai mayor, he had said, ‘The DMK
is not Sankara Mutt that the successor has to be nominated in
In the ongoing campaign
for the May 8 Assembly elections, Stalin is one of the star campaigners
for the DMK-led front. He is seeking re-election from Thousand Lights.
And should the DMK emerge victorious in the elections it would bring
him within striking distance of the coveted post of chief minister.
Karunanidhi however insists that he himself would become chief minister
if the DMK-led alliance wins. When asked in an interview if Stalin would
be made CM and party president, he said, “When the results are
announced and if DMK gains a majority, none other than I will become
But his political
rivals believe the astute politician has other plans. They say the manoeuvring
to install Stalin as CM some time during the middle of the term would
begin soon after a DMK government is formed. “Karunanidhi’s
life’s ambition is to put Stalin in the CM’s chair. He initially
groomed Stalin’s brother, MK Muthu, but that did not work out.
Then he brought in Stalin, who has seized the opportunity,” says
an MDMK leader. He believes that if the DMK wins, it would make Stalin
a minister first, and give him an important portfolio like home. “He
would be made the CM after some time. Or else, he might be made deputy
CM, but that would depend on the number of seats they get,” he
Nobody in the party
would admit on record that Stalin has been anointed Karunanidhi’s
successor. Stalin himself said once when he was mayor, “The DMK
is not Sankara Mutt that the successor has to be nominated in advance.”
The DMK general council is the body that elects the president of the
party. Elections are held every five years to different posts in the
party starting from the branch units at the grassroots level to party
president. There are about 1,500 members in the general council comprising
union, town and district secretaries and representatives of the various
wings of the party.
All senior leaders
including K. Anbazhagan and Arcot Veerasamy are staunch
Karunanidhi loyalists and would not stand in Stalin’s way
if he were to be elevated to DMK president or made chief minister
The last elections
in the party were held in 2003 when Karunanidhi was re-elected as party
president for the ninth time in a row and Stalin was elevated to the
post of deputy general secretary. In party hierarchy, Stalin ranks below
Anbazhagan and party treasurer Arcot Veerasamy. The party has two other
deputy general secretaries, Parithi Illamvazhuthi and Sarguna Pandian,
According to top
DMK leaders, all senior leaders in the party are staunch loyalists of
Karunanidhi, and none of them would stand in Stalin’s way if he
were to be elevated as party president or made CM. Anbazhagan has been
the DMK chief’s trusted lieutenant for many years and has been
content with the number two position in the party. Illamvazhuthi, a
former deputy speaker, and Sarguna Pandian, a former minister, are loyalists
The DMK is contesting
130 seats and has allotted the remaining 104 seats to its allies. It
has to win 118 seats, at a fairly high success ratio of over 90 percent,
to form a government with independent majority. If it falls short, the
Left parties and the Pattali Makkal Katchi have assured outside support.
They claim they would not insist on a coalition government. Congress
leaders say their priority is to win the polls and not worry about the
post-poll scenario. If the DMK fails to get the majority, the party
high command would decide on whether to join the government or not.
In the event of a DMK defeat, Stalin might still be made party president
in 2008 when Karunanidhi’s current term comes to an end.