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Karunanidhi set to name son Stalin as successor

Chennai, Dec 14 (IANS) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK chief M. Karunanidhi is widely expected to name his son M.K. Stalin as his successor at a state-level meeting of the party’s youth wing beginning Saturday.

The succession may be a two-stage affair to ensure that senior leaders in the party are not upset and the process appears democratic.

Stalin is now the local administration minister besides deputy party general secretary and secretary of the youth wing.

Karunanidhi, 83, is likely to make his 54-year-old son, named after the late Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, deputy chief minister to groom him to take over as chief minister later.

The DMK has several veterans including Finance Minister K. Anbazagan, who turns 85 later this month, and Electricity Minister Arcot Veerasamy, 70. But neither of them is a contender to succeed Karunanidhi.

Veerasamy told a meeting of the party’s youth wing in Chennai early this month that Stalin was capable of leading the party.

“I am not saying this because Stalin is the party president’s son. I am saying it because he has all the leadership qualities. And it is not just my view but that of all senior leaders in the party,” he said at the meeting held in preparation for the Dec 15-16 youth wing conference.

With such veteran party leaders endorsing Stalin’s succession, it will be a smooth affair.

The one DMK leader who was emerging as a rival to Stalin was V. Gopalaswamy, popularly known as Vaiko, who fell out with the leadership in the early 1990s. He formed Marulamarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) in 1994 but has not made much headway in fighting the state and national elections on his own.

Vaiko had aligned with DMK but walked out ahead of the 2006 assembly polls over the seat allotment and joined hands with the AIADMK. His gamble did not pay off as the DMK-led front swept the assembly polls.

The two-day conference at Tirunelveli, about 600 km south of Chennai, is planned to be a massive show of strength as Stalin has been touring the state addressing district units and accepting huge donations for the meet

The budget for the meet is pegged at Rs.20 million and about 800,000 people are expected to attend it. Over 4,000 buses and 5,000 vans have been commissioned to ferry people from various parts of the state.

The budgeted expenditure for the conference is around Rs.20 million and may inch up a bit, T.K.S. Illangovan, DMK organisation secretary, said.

Much of the expenditure is towards erecting the huge pandals at the Tirunelveli Medical College ground, transport and other logistics.

The district units of the party have been raising funds for the conference. The contribution of the unit depends on size of the district, Illangovan said.

“Depending on the district size, donations ranges between Rs.200,000 and Rs.8.5 million,” he said. The party’s Thanjavur district unit has donated Rs.8.5 million while the Chennai district has contributed Rs.8.4 million.

All lodges and marriage halls in Tirunelveli have been booked to house the delegates and other conference attendees.

The conference venue will have food stalls offering snacks and meals at subsidised rates.

“Unlike the party’s other wings – labour and women – the youth wing didn’t have any special/exclusive social cause to espouse,” Illangovan said on the reasons for the youth wing not holding a state-level meet for over two decades after it was set up.

“Now the situation is different as the youth lack direction and have no ideological leanings.

“The youth conference is to showcase our ideology and the path the youth should take,” he remarks.

The DMK wants the conference to be a mega event to checkmate new parties floated by leading Tamil film stars like Vijayakanth and Sarathkumar wooing the youth to their ranks.

Decades ago the party lost its young members to charismatic Tamil film star M.G. Ramachandran when he launched the rival AIADMK.

The task of attracting youngsters to the party fell on Stalin. He started the youth wing informally in 1968 with youngsters living in his area, Gopalapuram in Chennai.

Staying current with the youngsters, the youth wing will be launching its own website at the Tirunelveli conference, while DMK’s website is also being revamped.

The massive preparations have already drawn sharp reactions from the party’s archrival, AIADMK led by former chief minister J. Jayalalitha.

The party has approached courts to restrain DMK from allegedly diverting state and private buses from their regular routes to conference venue and to ensure normal life in Tirunelveli is not affected.