Stalin takes charge with brother in shadow, who will own the party in long run remains to be seen 

The feeling is that Stalin will not find Azhagiri a challenge within the party but may have to reckon with elder bro in the big bad world outside

PTI Photo
PTI Photo
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Aditya Aamir/IPA

Finally, after decades there is a Stalin at the head of a party, never mind if he is not Russian but a Tamil of India. MK Stalin is only the second president of the DMK and he’s got an elder brother who has no Russian to emulate but going by reputation and perception could be more Stalin than the Stalin who got himself chosen party boss.

‘Thalapathi Stalin’, it is. He follows 49 years of Karunanidhi, a hard act to follow. Stalin is no poet though he tried his hand on verse after ‘Appa’ passed away, a lament from son to father that at least “now” he could call him ‘Appa’, saddled as he was as ‘party cadre’ to address him with the party favourite ‘Kalaignar’, the ‘artist’.

Anyway, he didn’t need the permission because Kalaignar was not there to shut him up, remind him of party and cadre. The minute Karunanidhi was declared dead, the baton passed to Stalin and there was no one making a scene at the spot with Appa’s body lying in state. Azhagiri kept his intentions locked in his head; the brothers wept as the coffin was lowered into the grave at Anna Memorial and that was it, DMK 2:0.

Azhagiri gave the party and Stalin a few days’ rest to mourn MK’s death, time to soak in the feeling that Stalin would be boss. Then like the predator, dropped “home” in Chennai from his Madurai headquarters and gave indication if not notice that ‘here I’m little bro, don’t you forget.’

Future elections and the outcomes will decide to a large extent whether Stalin remains party head. He will have to, at some time in the near future, readmit Azhagiri into the party fold, which is what Azhagiri wants; who will own the DMK in the long run kept in the hold.

Stalin kept quiet and counsel to himself. The chips were in place and Azhagiri was so long out of the race, his horse was no longer in the derby and would take time to get used to the turf club called DMK. There are whispers that Stalin will have to pass muster by winning a few elections for the DMK if he wants to remain party chief.

The party under his guidance had to forfeit deposit in the bypoll in Jayalalithaa’s constituency RK Nagar and that must hang heavy in his mind, more because there is no ‘Appa’ to lend a hand or shoulder, a piece of advice, but then even RK Nagar 1:0 was without Karunanidhi in any way involved. It was Stalin all the way, right down to DMK losing the deposit.

Future elections and the outcomes will decide to a large extent whether Stalin remains party head. He will have to, at some time in the near future, readmit Azhagiri into the party fold, which is what Azhagiri wants; who will own the DMK in the long run kept in the hold.

Azhagiri has a presence in Madurai and South Tami Nadu with a sizeable following among the people. His wife being a Dali also counts besides the politically-strong Thevar community of South Tamil Nadu, which favours him over Stalin and could continue to do so.

Stalin faced no opposition getting elected party chief Tuesday with all 65 district secretaries proposing his name. Azhagiri, banished by Karunanidhi remained in Madurai, warned Monday of “consequences” if not taken back into the party, promising to hold a rally in Chennai next month to show his might.

Earlier this month he claimed all “loyal” party workers were with him and that he hankered for no party posts, never did. But he reserved for Stalin the warning that if not readmitted, the party would face a rout in General Elections 2019. Grapevine is he might work against the DMK in the assembly bypolls in Tiruvarur and Tiruparankundran, the former of which was held by Karunanidhi.

The so-called strongman of South Tamil Nadu has the muscle to make a dent. “They (cadres) only wanted me to take the lead in organising the march to pay homage (to Karunanidhi),” he told media. “Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) is not there now. The party has to be saved and protected. If they don’t readmit me, they will have to face consequences.”

The feeling is that Stalin will not find Azhagiri a challenge within the party but may have to reckon with elder bro in the big bad world outside. There is talk that Azhagiri may contest from Tiruvarur and might even win because he happens to be Kalaignar’s son! But if he loses that too would be okay so long as the DMK loses.

Addressing the party following his election, Stalin confessed he was not a patch on Kalaignar and “I cannot speak like him” but would do his best to fill the big shoes. It’s not the big shoes alone, the larger than life shadow of Karunanidhi also he will have to outrun.

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