The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief, M. Karunanidhi, will preside over the State conference of the party for the sixth time in a row, when he chairs the 10th session here on February 15 and 16. This is considered a rare achievement for any political leader in a democratic set-up.

The DMK has so far held nine State conferences ever since it was launched at a public meeting at Robinson Park in Chennai on September 17, 1949. The party founder, C. N. Annadurai, presided over the first three State conferences – in Chennai (1951), Madurai (1961) and Chennai (1966).

Shortly before the second State conference at Tiruchi in 1956, senior party leader V. R. Nedunchezhian had been elected as the party’s new general secretary. Anna chose Nedunchezhian to preside over the Tiruchi State conference much to the surprise of the then senior leaders and cadre alike, which marked a tuning point in the history of the party.

Anna, while seconding Nedunchezhian’s name for presiding over the conference, invited him with the slogan “Thambi vaa; thalaimai erka vaa.”

This call still remains a popular quote of Anna, which is remembered not only for its literary alliteration, but it also explained the intra-party discipline the party founder had longed for, irrespective of age or experience in politics. The confidence Anna had on Nedunchezian through this invitation elevated his status and enabled him draw the command and respect of the rank and file.

Mr. Karunanidhi, as party president, first presided over the fifth State conference held in Coimbatore in 1975. This was the first State conference of the party after the demise of the party founder Anna in 1969. Later, Mr. Karunanidhi went on to preside over the sixth State conference at Tiruchi (1990), seventh at Coimbatore (1993), eighth at Tiruchi (1996) and the ninth also at Tiruchi (2006).

K. Anbazhagan, party general secretary, will declare the conference open on February 15. Fraternal party leaders, including K. Veeramani (Dravidar Kazhagam), Thol. Tirumalavan (Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi), K. Krishnasamy (Puthiya Tamizhagam), K. M. Khader Mohideen (IUML), M. H. Jawahirullah (Manitha Makkal Katchi) and RM. Veerappan (MGR Kazhagam) are expected to address the conference on the final day.