Will MK Stalin Ever Become Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu?

What Stalin has failed to deliver is a decisive blow at the AIADMK. 

Published
Opinion
4 min read
Image of MK Stalin used for representational purposes.
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A few weeks ago, a cartoon graphic in Tamil, widely forwarded on social media, suggested that a few decades from now, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President MK Stalin would still be saying: “This government will fall, and I will become chief minister”.

That cartoon may well sum up MK Stalin’s situation.

It’s been a year since he took charge of the DMK after his father M Karunanidhi passed away on 7 August 2018. And, despite ensuring a massive victory in the 2019 parliamentary election — the DMK won 21 of the 21 seats it contested and the alliance led by it won 38 of the 39 seats in the state (one in a by-election held after the polls) — Stalin finds himself a very long shot away from power in the state, and is firmly on the wrong side of the central government.

In fact, this could be Stalin’s biggest failure in his first year at the helm. He failed to focus on the by-elections and ensure that the AIADMK lost the numbers.

Stalin’s Biggest Failure — To Deliver Blow To AIADMK

Any regional party thrives primarily on its ability to capture power in a state, and Stalin is not even an inch closer to that objective a year after he took charge. In fact, it may be argued that he has gone further away from it, and the tremendous victory in the parliamentary polls has made no difference.

This is because the AIADMK dispensation in power under Chief Minister E Palanisamy has managed to keep the boat afloat, and fight off factions in the party that have tried to pull the government down. Despite being drubbed in the parliamentary elections, it managed to salvage 9 of the 22 assembly seats where by elections were held simultaneously, and that gave the dispensation a fresh lease of life.

Two years is a long time in politics and it is unlikely that the momentum Stalin had in the parliamentary elections would carry forward till then.

In fact, this could be Stalin’s biggest failure in his first year at the helm. He failed to focus on the by-elections and ensure that the AIADMK lost the numbers. Had the DMK managed to sweep more seats, it could have made a bid for power, but Stalin seems to have focused on the parliamentary elections and let the AIADMK slip through the cracks in the assembly by-elections.

Stalin Missed The Bus To Galvanise Rebellion

Further, the Palanisamy dispensation has the brute backing of the BJP and the central government. Given the power the BJP wields in New Delhi, especially after the 2019 results, dissenting elements in the AIADMK seem weary of the consequences if they attempt to destabilise the government.

Stalin had a chance to galvanise rebellion and split within the AIADMK in the last one year, but missed the bus. The reality now is that it seems next to impossible for the DMK to make a bid for power till the next assembly elections in the State scheduled in 2021.

Stalin has shown that he can hold his party together in his father’s absence and has cemented his place as the president of the DMK. But what Stalin has failed to deliver is a decisive blow at the AIADMK.

Two years is a long time in politics and it is unlikely that the momentum Stalin had in the parliamentary elections would carry forward till then. The question of new star entrants into politics of the state, like Rajinikanth, still remains inconclusive, and the road ahead is not clear.

He is certainly the most powerful and most credible political personality in the state at the moment, but that is simply not enough. His objective is to become chief minister — it has been long before his father passed away, and that post has remained elusive.

To add to his troubles, Stalin has firmly placed the DMK on an ideological battle against the Bharatiya Janata Party and even risked being the only political leader to endorse Rahul Gandhi as a prime ministerial choice.

What Stalin Can Learn From His Father’s Example

While his position is consistent with Dravidian political values, some sections in the party have discreetly questioned the need for such grand standing. They feel it is not wise for an out-of-power regional party to go on confrontation course with the Centre.

In fact, some observers construe that he may have miscalculated the Congress’s chances in the 2019 polls, and hence, the DMK’s chances of a say in the Centre. It seems clear that he did not anticipate a landslide for the BJP, and may have calculated that irrespective of the assembly by-poll results, if the DMK had a say in the Centre, then it could make a bid for power in the state.

The late M Karunanidhi had managed alliances with the BJP and the Congress without diluting his own ideological position, and had also survived the Emergency and an era where the Congress had brute majorities. Stalin, in his first year, hasn’t shown such leadership but may soon have to learn that art.

He has shown that he can hold his party together in his father’s absence and has cemented his place as the president of the DMK. But what Stalin has failed to deliver is a decisive blow at the AIADMK. In the end, will Stalin ever become CM, is a question that is as punctuated as it has always been!

(The writer is an independent journalist. He can be reached @TMVRaghav . This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)

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