M.K. Stalin’s ascension as only the second president of the DMK (his father Karunanidhi being the first) on Tuesday turned out to be an uneventful affair as his candidature was endorsed by all the district secretaries of the DMK and also the various wings of the party. He was elected unopposed to the post by the party’s general council.
Speaking at the general council after assuming charge Stalin declared, “I am no Karunanidhi, can never be one. But like him I will dedicate my hard work for the party and its ideals.” Stalin also asked the party cadres to rally behind him to teach a lesson to the BJP at the Centre and the AIADMK in the state.
Senior DMK leader Durai Murugan, who became the party’s treasurer, recalled that when Karunanidhi assumed the DMK’s leadership in 1969 he had to surmount a lot of opposition. “Compared to him your ascension has been smooth, unanimously supported by all sections of the party,” the new Treasurer pointed out.
True Stalin has easily stepped into his father’s post but filling his shoes is not going to be easy. The new DMK president has the following challenges:
He has to quickly and effectively quell the challenge posed by elder brother Alagiri, who is planning a rally in Chennai on Sept 5. If the rally flops Alagiri’s dare would dissipate proving that he has little backing from the party’s cadres.
If the High Court overrules the disqualification of 18 MLAs of the TTV Dhinakaran camp, then Stalin would have to move fast to push through a no confidence motion against the EPS government to facilitate an early election to the Assembly. So far Stalin has proved to be ineffective on this front though the EPS government does not have a majority in the house.
If the court verdict favours the ruling party then Stalin has to firm up his party’s alliance to face the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and win the maximum number of MPs from the state, which could prove crucial in the post-poll scenario. In 2014 the DMK had drawn a blank.
The immediate electoral challenge would be the byelections to Thiruvarur (his father’s seat) and Thiruparankundram (held previously by the AIADMK). After the drubbing at R.K. Nagar, where the DMK had even lost the deposit, the DMK has to retain Karunanidhi’s seat and also wrest the other one from the AIADMK. Another defeat will lower the morale of the cadres and Alagiri would be waiting to raise questions about Stalin’s leadership skills.
The DMK should again start determining the state’s political discourse by taking on the ruling parties both at Delhi and Chennai.
Stalin should seriously exploit the split in the AIADMK to re-establish the DMK’s political primacy now that a completely new political leadership has emerged in the race. Compared to all other political leaders in the fray, he is the most experienced and he must show it.