It’s been a year since Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) patriarch and former Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi passed away, a death that put a big question mark on a party that seemed to be getting by solely on his political capital.
But it’s been a year of metamorphosis for the DMK, now led by Karunanidhi’s younger son and chosen heir M.K. Stalin, 66.
Since his father, 94, died on 7 August last year, Stalin has injected young blood into the DMK and pushed the party to adopt social media and other technology, to stellar results. Older leaders, meanwhile, have been told to keep with the times or face oblivion, say sources.
Party insiders claim that while the loss of Kalaignar, as Karunanidhi was lovingly addressed by followers, will never cease to sting, the DMK is in safe hands under Stalin, who, according to them, is not very different from his father.
“A leader like Kalaignar, a man so entrenched in Tamil and Indian politics, with deep knowledge of different issues as well as literary talent, is irreplaceable,” DMK’s Madurai Central MLA P.T.R. Palanivel Thiagarajan told ThePrint.
“His passing was the end of an era, but also the beginning of a new one,” he added.
Thiagarajan would know. He is one of the younger leaders promoted to active electoral politics under Stalin. The son of former assembly speaker and renowned DMK leader P.T.R. Palanivel Rajan, who died in 2006, Thiagarajan is a former investment banker whose career kept him abroad for years, including a stint at the now-notorious Lehman Brothers, and has an American wife.
He took a full-time plunge into politics with the 2016 assembly elections, which saw Stalin lead the DMK campaign before he was officially handed the reins. Thiagarajan won, scoring a seat in the assembly from Madurai Central.