Patience, a virtue that aided Stalin's rise

The then DMK working president M K Stalin with his father and party president M Karunanidhi. (PTI File Photo)

It was a long wait for the newly elected president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam M K Stalin and one where he resisted temptations to challenge his father M Karunanidhi, who reigned over the party for 49 years from 1969 till his death recently.

Stalin took to politics at the tender age of 14 when he climbed atop a van to campaign for his uncle Murasoli Maran in 1967.

Even when his father was facing a health crisis in the winter of 2016, Stalin was reluctant to overthrow Karunanidhi as DMK president but was coronated as the working president - a post not mentioned in the party constitution - in January 2017.

The closest that Karunanidhi came to announcing Stalin as his political heir was when he appointed him the deputy chief minister in 2009. Though several lieutenants in the party sought Stalin’s elevation, Karunanidhi kept dodging them.

Political observers say it is this patience that helped Stalin in his smooth transition to the helm of the 69-year-old party founded by C N Annadurai.

Though Stalin is identified as Karunanidhi's son, his rise in the party has been steady rather than meteoric – he was first included in the General Council in 1973, jailed during Emergency, contested the first election in 1984 and lost in Thousand Lights in Chennai and was elected as Chennai Mayor in 1996.

It is only during his fourth stint as MLA in 2006 that Stalin found a place in Karunanidhi's Cabinet – he settled for the Rural Development portfolio that mostly took him to Tamil Nadu's hinterland. It is during his stint as a minister and later as deputy chief minister that Stalin honed his administrative skills and brought the DMK under his control slowly.

Even in the party, Stalin climbed up the ladder slowly – was appointed youth wing secretary in 1983, became deputy general secretary in 2003, treasurer (2008), working president (2017) and president (2018).

Karunanidhi had to weather frequent storms within his family with the Madurai-based elder son M K Alagiri time and again demanding his pound of flesh. And when Alagiri challenged Stalin in 2014, Karunanidhi allowed his younger son (Stalin) to muzzle out his elder son (Azhagiri) and bring the party under his control.

And it was no surprise that when Azhagiri tried embarrassing Stalin by trying to challenge his elevation, the entire party stood behind him and allowed the transition from working president to president.

In the cadre-based DMK, the district secretaries are very powerful as they emerge out of tough electoral contests unlike in the AIADMK where such functionaries exist at the pleasure of the party chief and exit when that fades at the drop of the hat. Stalin has ensured that all the district secretaries owe allegiance to him, and also his colleagues in the Assembly.

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Patience, a virtue that aided Stalin's rise

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