Editorial

Father to son: on Stalin as DMK president

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As DMK president, Stalin has no challengers from within, but faces a new mix of rivals

In appropriating the political legacy of his father M. Karunanidhi, and emerging as the undisputed leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, M.K. Stalin faced the greatest challenge from within his immediate family than from the wider party organisation. That he was Karunanidhi’s son helped him in ways small and big right through his political career, but Mr. Stalin also needed to beat back the challenge from his elder brother, M.K. Alagiri. In the event, his elevation as the president of the DMK on Tuesday was an uncontested process as Mr. Alagiri had been expelled from the party in 2014 on the suggestion of Karunanidhi himself. However, the general council meeting in Chennai that elected him president served as an opportunity for Mr. Stalin to demonstrate his support within the organisation. Many of the middle-rung leaders who had earlier proffered allegiance to Mr. Alagiri fell in line, and backed Mr. Stalin’s claim to the leadership of the party. While Mr. Alagiri is putting up a fight from outside the party by alleging misuse of party funds and assets and calling for a rally on September 5 in Chennai, he is politically isolated now. Unless Mr. Stalin leads the DMK to successive electoral defeats, Mr. Alagiri cannot hope to win back any support within the party. Evidently, he overplayed his hand, failing to see his finesse opportunity while Karunanidhi was still alive. Mr. Stalin, in contrast, played the waiting game, never violating party discipline or exceeding his brief. Mr. Alagiri’s irrational impulse lost out to Mr. Stalin’s studied patience.

 

For Mr. Stalin, the real worry is not his brother but his political opponents. While the Lok Sabha election is less than a year away, the election that matters most for him, the Tamil Nadu Assembly election, is not due for another three years. Mr. Stalin must be hoping that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government of Edappadi K. Palaniswami will not survive that long, being pulled as it is in different directions by dissidents and an overbearing prospective ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party. The DMK, having firmed up its alliance with the Congress, would normally have been the favourite to win against a divided AIADMK, but the entry of film actors Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth into electoral politics has introduced new variables into the political mix. As he said after his election, Mr. Stalin will need to reinvent himself and the DMK. The Dravidian ideology can do with a reboot of rationalism; and the DMK will have to align its short-term electoral interests with a long-term vision of the development path for Tamil Nadu. As his father did before him, Mr. Stalin must rely on a wider cross-section for support and advice rather than a coterie. In the midst of the political churn, he will have to find his moorings.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 12:12:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/father-to-son/article24804111.ece

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