You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Will DMK’s Stalin gain from the political feud in Tamil Nadu?

LiveMint logoLiveMint 01-03-2017 Dharani Thangavelu

Chennai: As M.K. Stalin celebrates his 64th birthday on Wednesday, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president finds himself in a relatively safe zone compared with most of his competitors in Tamil Nadu, where the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is in the midst of a political turmoil.

AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala is in jail, former chief minister O. Panneerselvam has rebelled against her. Though Edappadi K. Palaniswami has been made the chief minister, the AIADMK is in a shambles.

This gives Stalin an opportunity to steer the current situation in his favour.

Though Stalin has always been considered the obvious scion of the 68-year-old party, his long wait to be at the helm of affairs, officially, came to an end on 4 January, when he was made the working president of DMK.

Stalin’s extensive year-long “Nammakku Namme” (We for Us) campaign, ahead of the elections in May last year, established that he was the face of DMK.

“There is no denying that the entire party has completely accepted Stalin’s leadership. But, it is difficult to match Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) and at this current political situation had he been active, things would have been different,” said a senior leader from DMK, on the condition of anonymity.

“Initially we felt that Stalin had been acting slowly (since Jayalalithaa’s hospitalization). But, that is his style and we have realized it works,” he added.

“Stalin’s leadership style and his campaign strategy during the elections, proved that the new generation voters were ready to accept him. In electoral terms, DMK and Stalin have an advantage over anyone else at this stage,” said N. Sathiya Moorthy, director of the Chennai chapter of think-tank Observer Research Foundation.

The wait for the crown

Born just four days before the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, the leader of opposition of Tamil Nadu was named after him.

Stalin, who was the mayor of Chennai Corporation between 1996 and 2002, was the minister of municipal administration and rural development in 2006. He was appointed Tamil Nadu deputy chief minister in 2009. Initially appointed as secretary of the DMK youth wing in 1984, he was elected DMK deputy general secretary in 2003. Stalin has been the treasurer of the party since 2008.

If there is one incident that led Stalin to take a serious plunge, it was after his arrest in 1975 under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, or Misa, during the Emergency. He is known as Thalapathy (commander) ever since.

The next ascend

If Stalin’s long overdue elevation in the DMK is seen as an important leap, the next ascent that he and his party is looking for, amid the rapidly changing political dynamics of Tamil Nadu, would be more crucial. The DMK, which is hoping for early polls, is strategically trying to project it as a stable option for the people given the internal turmoil in AIADMK.

The pandemonium in the Tamil Nadu assembly on 18 February was a precursor to his sentiment, with Stalin trying to seize the anti-Sasikala sentiment in his favour, rather than allowing Panneerselvam gain from it.

Stalin had recently said, “We will react to the issue democratically. We lost the assembly election (2016) by just 1.1% vote share.”

Stalin, who has taken over the reins from his ailing 92-year-old father M. Karunanidhi, went ahead on a hunger strike on 22 February and raised issues including the “mysteries surrounding late CM J. Jayalalithaa’s death”. This came just ahead of Panneerselvam’s decision to go on a hunger strike on 8 March, seeking a probe into Jayalalithaa’s demise.

Analysts also agree that Stalin has been trying to bring a new culture to Tamil Nadu politics. If Stalin attending the swearing in of Jayalalithaa in May last year came as a surprise to the people of the state who have witnessed bitter rivalry between the DMK and the AIADMK int he past.

According to observers, he has been trying to set new standards of public behaviour, which would permeate down to the cadres to create space for a mature political culture.

But this has also led to criticism. Recently, Sasikala accused Panneerselvam for “talking to Stalin in the assembly” and even claimed that the DMK was operating from behind the scenes to create confusion within AIADMK.

Sathiya Moorthy said: “He has got the potential to turn the political culture of Tamil Nadu upside down. But whether he is patient enough remains to seen.”

More From LiveMint

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon