Chennai: With the passing of DMK patriarch Karunanidhi, the mantle of the party which he guided for nearly 50 years after inheriting it from the founder CN Annadurai has clearly fallen on the shoulders of his third son MK Stalin. A symbolic indication that the leadership mantle has been passed on to him came on Wednesday evening when the national flag draped around Karunanidhi’s body as a state honour was removed and handed over to Stalin.
Karunanidhi, who promoted too many family members in politics, had always shied away from identifying a political successor. Even when age began to catch up with him, a 92-year-old Karunanidhi had in 2016 famously said that, “If Stalin has to become leader, nature has to do something to me.” At one point, Karunanidhi tried to simultaneously promote Stalin, who had shown signs of political aspiration as a teenager, and second son MK Alagiri. However, Alagiri’s base was in Madurai, while Stalin remained in Chennai, the capital city, in the towering shadow of his father.
“Alagiri initially did not hold any party post but got his men appointed in key posts in south Tamil Nadu. He grew ambitious after helping DMK win the Thirumangalam by-election by a record margin. In 2009, when he landed nine of the 10 Parliamentary seats in south Tamil Nadu in the DMK kitty, he was rewarded with a Union Cabinet berth and party south zone organising secretary. But he squandered it all following his fight with Stalin, thereby falling out of Karunanidhi’s favour,” said a senior DMK leader, once a close associate of Alagiri.
After he was sidelined, Stalin, with the blessings of Karunanidhi, consolidated his position within the party. “He has more political experience having headed the youth wing and having held the post of treasurer for long. He did a splendid job as Chennai Mayor and has been five-time MLA,” said a leader. Since January 2016, Stalin has been DMK’s working president and handled the party’s affairs due to Karunanidhi’s ill-health. “He has emerged as the face of the party and people now recognise him as a prominent leader in the post-Jayalalithaa, post-Karunanidhi period. Stalin will be able to lead us, though not on the scale of Karunanidhi,” said a DMK district secretary.
As for their half-sister and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, she would be DMK’s face in New Delhi, a job once handled by Karunanidhi’s nephew Murasoli Maran and briefly by his son Dayanidhi Maran. Of course, Alagiri had long ago declared that he won’t accept anyone other than Karunanidhi as leader. “But he can’t split the party because the cadre realise that Stalin is our only hope for the future. All this would depend on electoral success in the future,” said the district secretary.