DMK after Karunanidhi: How the party plots its path forward under Stalin

Last Updated: Wed, Aug 15, 2018 15:57 hrs
Karunanidhi with M K Stalin

Two titans of Tamil Nadu politics are no more. With the passing of former Chief Minister and DMK Chief M Karunanidhi last week, a defining era in Tamil Nadu and Dravidian politics has come to an end. What the AIADMK faced less than 2 years ago in finding a successor, is what the DMK is facing now.

The difference perhaps is that the DMK has a relatively well formed hierarchy in terms of MK Stalin taking over the reins. It’s not hyperbolic to say that without Karunanidhi, the DMK would not be the party it is today. The party has withstood corruption and scandal at every turn to still persist. The DMK of the past had a clear ideology; a demand for language rights and its equal status. It was a party that stood for the rights and dignity of the lower caste. It was essentially an anti-Congress party at the time when the Indian National Congress had a clear majority.

The AIADMK currently isn’t united. It also supports the current central government and vice-versa to an extent. This is striking given Jayalalithaa wasn’t the best ally to the BJP and often was at odds with the centre. Following her death was a bitter power struggle. Warring factions continue to exist within the AIADMK.

DMK & Stalin

The DMK will now plot its path forward. Where the AIADMK has evidently failed at keeping the party together, the DMK may not have such a problem. On Tuesday, the DMK met for its council meeting where Stalin would seek to consolidate power and support within the party. Currently, he’s the working president of the party. Ever the loyalist to his father, Karunanidhi brought him into the fold by giving the post of “youth wing state organiser” in the early 1980’s.

As reported by Dinamalar, various party cadre announced their support for Stalin to the party leader; essentially the face of the party. Various office bearers within the working establishment of the party spoke highly of Stalin as party secretaries of various districts said in part, “Karunanidhi has taught how to defeat the opponents in the situation. Stalin is behind the volunteers” and former Union Minister TR Balu saying, “Stalin proved that after Karunanidhi, he has the leadership role. Let us accept his leadership”. Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, a steadfast presence beside her father, in the past, was the party’s face in Delhi. She too has been at the centre of scandal; most recently the 2G scam along with former Union minister A Raja.

In all likelihood, Stalin will be elected the President and leader of the DMK when the party holds its general body meeting next month. In the council meeting, Stalin reiterated his love for the party and his father saying in part, “I strive to fulfill the wishes of the leader and asked you to stand up for it”. As Dinakaran reported from inside the meeting, the leader in waiting was touched at the tributes that poured in from across the country for his father. He began the meeting by stating, “This emergency executive meeting has been convened to fulfill the decision of the DMK leader Karunanidhi”, making it clear to all those present that his father’s legacy will not be diminished within the party.


Someone who could complicate things for Stalin and the DMK is his estranged half-brother Alagiri. He visited his father’s memorial on Monday morning and soon after claimed he had the support of those who were truly loyal to his father. The former union minister was expelled from the party in 2014. The reason given was ‘anti-party’ activities. At the time, Stalin was the one being groomed to be the future of the party.

According to a Dailythanthi report, in the city of Madurai, a stronghold for Alagiri, posters depicting him as the leader have popped up in the wake of his comments claiming the support of Karunanidhi loyalists. In an interview to Maalamalar, Alagiri claims that the situation between him and the DMK will be resolved in a month.

He also states that he has some information regarding the party’s finances saying in part, “I know how many assets the DMK has. Those assets and party funds are misused”. He also claims that he does not want to become the leader of the party but wants to work for it as per the wishes of his father.

Going into 2019, the DMK seems to be in a better position than its state political rival; relatively united barring any last minute hiccups. The party’s future will depend on how Stalin settles things with Alagiri. The wrangling for power in the state has been complicated with the entry of two cinema legends in Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. Their roles in the next elections are not entirely clear; though they have made their intentions clear. How this plays in the weeks and months leading up to the election will be fascinating to watch.

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