The stage is all set for Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president M.K. Stalin to take over the reigns of the party following the death of his father and DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi. While the DMK executive committee meet scheduled for Tuesday is meant to condole the demise of the 94-year-old Kalaignar, it will also announce the date for the general council meeting, which will announce the elevation of Stalin as the party president.
“The smooth transition (of Stalin) to the helm of DMK is already done; naming him as the next president, is just a formality now," said a senior DMK leader, requesting anonymity.
The DMK party bylaws say that “the members of the general council shall elect the president, the general secretary and the treasurer." “The elected president will nominate three deputy general secretaries, of which one shall be SC/ST and one shall be a woman and one from the general pool. The members of the general council shall also elect four members to the audit committee."
Stalin was made the working president of the party in January 2017 after Karunanidhi’s deteriorating health did not allow him to preside over party affairs.
In fact, the 2016 assembly elections saw Stalin take complete control of the party. His extensive year-long “Nammakku Namme" (We for Us) campaign, ahead of the election, established him as the face of the DMK.
While the party lost to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the DMK alliance with 98 seats in the 234-member assembly emerged as the largest-ever opposition in Tamil Nadu with just a 1.1% vote share difference.
The wheels of fortune had in fact started turning in favour of Stalin in 2014, when Karunanidhi decided to expel his other son M.K. Alagiri for anti-party activities and named Stalin as his political heir. This was also the time when the rivalry between the two brothers was at its peak.
“No major changes are expected within the party hierarchy and nothing has been decided regarding the induction of Alagiri into the party," said the DMK leader mentioned above, adding that the promotion of Karuananidhi’s daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, and former union minister A. Raja may not be done in a hurry. “Will those changes be immediate, well, that is yet to be seen."
The political and administrative capabilities of Stalin have also been put to test on several occasions and he has been successful, said political observers. Stalin was the mayor of Chennai Corporation between 1996 and 2002. He was also the deputy chief minister during the DMK’s 2006-11 rule, which marked Karunanidhi’s last tenure as the chief minister.
Salma, a member of the DMK and a Tamil writer, said that Stalin’s handling of the rural development and local administration portfolio was noteworthy. “It was a department that defines the structure of the society and he created an impact by ensuring full-fledged functioning of the self-help groups."
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In February 1970, a year after DMK founder C.N. Annadurai’s death, a conference at Trichy had become a landmark event for the party as it resolved to continue Annadurai’s demand to restructure centre-state relations, and to staunchly resist any attempt that infringed the state’s prerogatives. This followed a resolution in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on state autonomy, urging the centre to make “immediate changes in the Constitution of India to establish a truly federal set-up with full state autonomy".
In a similar move, a state autonomy conference has been initiated by the DMK and is scheduled to be held on 30 August in Chennai. It was planned before Karunanidhi’s death. The platform is not only expected to be a show of strength for opposition parties before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it will also be significant for Stalin, the Thalapathy (commander), as he gets ready for the anointment.
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Addressing the cadres in the party’s mouthpiece Murasoli on Friday, Stalin wrote: “In our lives, Periyar, Anna and Kalaignar were three powerful forces who will guide our path. Thalaivar (Kalaignar) may have left us, but his words and deeds spanning eight decades of public life are the lifeline for the people of Tamil Nadu."