In a few hours, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president-in-waiting, MK Stalin, will finally take formal control of Tamil Nadu’s grand old party.
But even before the formalities begin and end, there are indications that M. Karunanidhi’s heir couldn’t be more different from his late father.
Followers of Dravidian politics would observe that Karunanidhi’s DMK was a model democracy when it came to party functioning.
“There was space for dissent, which Karunanidhi encouraged. As a result of this, second-rung leaders always felt they were being heard,” said R K Radhakrishnan, Associate Editor of
Frontline, “But under Stalin, cadres are expected to be subservient to one leader, endorse his decisions and ensure there isn’t any dissent.”
Going by indications, Stalin’s coterie of trusted loyalists is also fairly small.
There is Durai Murugan, set to be elected unopposed as DMK treasurer, while former union minister and Karunanidhi’s grandnephew, Dayanidhi Maran, is also known to enjoy close ties with the leader.
Then, there’s former union telecom minister A Raja constantly by Stalin’s side, even as the DMK’s Rajya Sabha MP and Stalin’s half-sister, M Kanimozhi, has also ensured proximity to the DMK high command.
On Sunday, soon after Stalin nominated by all 63 district secretaries of the DMK, Kanimozhi greeted him with a peck on the cheek. The warmth and affection between the two was for all to see.
Sources close to the party, however, indicated that these leaders might only be placeholders within the party.
“While these leaders would have enjoyed clout under Karunanidhi, Stalin’s DMK is all about Stalin,” said one source with knowledge of the party’s functioning.
Another source went so far as to claim that Stalin’s family would be game-changers when it comes to political strategy, “Stalin’s son, Udhayanidhi (also a well-known Kollywood actor), has been clamouring for a more relevant role in the party, while his son-in-law V Sabarish has already been playing the role of a liaison between the DMK and other political parties.”
The source added, “Even as Stalin would want the DMK to be a one-man party under his presidency, these family members would also begin assuming importance.”
Political observers feel that the DMK’s big guns cannot and will not be sidelined for too long.
“Among non-family members of the party, Duraimurugan, has been a strong loyalist, one of the party’s senior-most members and is known to have close ties to Stalin.
Being elected as treasurer, unopposed, is probably the result of enjoying that kind of clout within the party,” said political analyst Sumanth C Raman, “A Raja too has seen the DMK stick with him even through the days of the 2G spectrum scam. It won’t be surprising if he wins a plum position within the party, as well.”
Stalin’s style of functioning, proximity to loyalists and his reluctance to extend the boundaries of his inner circle also has marked differences when compared to the DMK patriarch.
“You could choose to criticise Stalin for it, or you could also say it’s a good thing to do, depending on your argument,” said Radhakrishnan.But the writing is on the wall: Stalin is not his father’s son — politically. How that works out for the DMK, though, only time will tell.