CHENNAI, Jan 4:
Heralding a generational change in party leadership, DMK supremo M Karunanidhi’s son M K Stalin was today appointed the party’s working president that vested him with all powers.
The elevation of 63-year-old Stalin to the top post at the party general council meet here, though a foregone conclusion, comes against the background of 93-year-old party patriarch Karunanidhi’s failing health. Karunanidhi, who will remain president, was hospitalised twice recently and is recuperating now.
It was for the first time in 50 years that Karunanidhi could not attend the general council meet owing to his illness. It was also for the first time in the history of the over 60-year-old DMK that a post of working president has been created.
At the general council meet, necessary amendments were made in the rules to facilitate elevation of Stalin, a former deputy Chief Minister.
The elevation also comes days after the ruling AIADMK elected Sasikala Natarajan as the new chief after J Jayalalithaa’s death.
That Stalin will succeed Karunanidhi has been an open secret in the corridors of DMK for the last many years, with Karunanidhi himself having given ample indications of this.
Alongside his present post of Treasurer, Stalin will now be holding the position of Working President, party veteran and General Secretary K Anbazhagan told the meet, proposing his name for the post.
Soon after Stalin was named party working chief, celebrations broke out outside DMK headquarters ‘Anna Arivalayam’ and also at his residence, with party cadres bursting crackers and distributing sweets, hailing the elevation of their ‘thalapathi’ (commander).
Stalin in his acceptance speech after his elevation broke down while making a reference to the failing health of his father and party president Karunanidhi.
Stalin said he accepted the new responsibility with a heavy heart in view of the health condition of his father.
Stating that in the past, he had felt proud, happy, and rejoiced when he assumed new responsibilities, he broke down while saying that, “today I am not in such a stage (feeling happy about elevation) this is the truth.”
“In view of the health status of party chief, I accept this position with a heavy heart,” he said.
He said his work as working chief would be that of aiding the party patriarch.
“Be it our president, general secretary or other senior leaders, I will follow the path shown by them and I am ready carry out the party activities with all your support,” he said. Stalin said he viewed the new position of working chief as a responsibility and added that “I take a pledge that I will function responsibly.”
Stalin in his brief acceptance speech said his elevation was not a sudden occurrence. “The matter was given ample though, it was well discussed and consulted (among party senior leadership),” he said.
Hailing Karunanidhi as a leader “who gave rest to rest itself,” he said such a “leader needs some rest.” Explaining further about the circumstances surrounding his elevation, he said Karunanidhi who had taken ill should now fully recover.
Stalin said in view of the top leader’s health, the senior leadership after discussions, decided that Karunanidhi needed rest and had “persuaded and urged” him to become working president.
“Finally, the change has been effected by way of a resolution and it has been adopted in this general council meet with your overwhelming support,” he told partymen.
Stalin had earlier encountered stiff resistance to becoming party chief from his Madurai-based elder brother M K Alagiri, who was expelled from DMK in 2014 for anti-party activities. (PTI)