As Karunanidhi’s illness and subsequent hospitalisation fuelled the rumours, there was talk within the party about Stalin’s elevation.

To be or not to be Rumours about Stalins elevation resurface but is this time different
news Politics Saturday, December 03, 2016 - 20:46

As DMK President M Karunanidhi convalesces from a drug-induced allergy in a private hospital in Chennai, whispers about crowning his younger son and heir-apparent MK Stalin are growing louder, once more. And while it’s hardly the first time that speculation about his elevation has surfaced within and outside party circles, the question is, is this time different?

It’s been over a month since the DMK first announced that the 92-year-old leader had taken ill owing to an allergy caused by his medication. Advised rest by his doctors, Karunanidhi did not campaign for the November 19 bye-elections in the three assembly constituencies. And while he has continued to issue press statements, he has been confined to his Gopalapuram residence with the party requesting members to avoid visits. On Thursday, Karunanidhi was admitted to the Kauvery Hospital in Chennai for “optimisation of nutrition and hydration”. The medical bulletin issued added that the leader would be in hospital for a few days.

As Karunanidhi’s illness and subsequent hospitalisation fuelled the rumours, a source close to the DMK chief confirmed that there was talk within the party about Stalin’s elevation but noted that nothing has been discussed officially. "Anyway, there is no hurry and Kalaignar will discuss it if he feels it is time to do so," the source added.

Another source in the DMK also noted that the succession issue has been spoken about several times within the party but said, “There is no plan as such immediately. The only thing on our mind is the health of the leader.” The DMK member also pointed out that formally taking over as party president “doesn’t matter much since Stalin has been taking all the decisions since 2014. He is numero uno in the party.”

RK Radhakrishnan, Associate Editor of Frontline pointed out, “Stalin’s elevation is a foregone conclusion. But there has never been a case of a leader handing power to his son on a platter, barring the Congress.” Moreover, he observes that Stalin hasn’t earned his stripes, having proved incapable of winning elections, despite being the face of the party in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and the 2016 Assembly election.  

“Both the older generation and the present generation of leaders are at fault. In the interest of the party, the older generation should retire. They are far too old. They can become patriarchs of the party and hand over the running of the party to younger leaders,” said Radhakrishnan. But he also argues that given that the present generation hasn’t proved worthy of winning an election, the DMK has to reinvent itself if it has to make a comeback.  “DMK’s strategy has been that it just needs to sit around and occupy the opposition chair and that power will come to it. 2016 has proved otherwise. Maybe this present generation should hand over power to someone else,” he said.   

But this time, murmurs within the DMK are not only about Stalin’s elevation. The party is reportedly considering an organisational rejig, with names for the other two top posts – general secretary and treasurer – also being discussed.  While former minister I Periyasamy is being considered for the post of treasurer, presently held by Stalin, another ex-minister Duraimurugan is being considered for the post of general secretary, currently held by K Anbazhagan, reported DT Next. However, citing a source, the paper suggests that 93-year-old Anbazhagan scuttled the move as he was “unwilling to sacrifice his seat” for Duraimurugan.

And although reports suggest that an announcement about Stalin officially taking over the reins is expected in January, what is certain is that in the eyes of the electorate, age and hospitalisation appear not to be an issue, as proved in the decisive mandate for the ruling AIADMK in the recent bye-elections.