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Stalin hotseat hint

Chennai, Feb. 14: There was no formal announcement but the DMK today gave a clue to its future plans when it said Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin will be the “commander” of the party. He already heads the youth wing.

The rise of the 50-year-old son of former Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi in the party hierarchy was hinted at in a statement by Union minister for forest and environment T.R. Baalu. He was responding to the polemic of ADMK leader and chief minister Jayalalithaa.

Baalu’s remark was significant because it is the first official statement in recent memory from the DMK headquarters.

“Stalin is not just the commander of the party’s youth wing but for our movement — DMK — as well,” Baalu said in response to Jayalalithaa’s poser: “Which army is Stalin heading'”

In the recent past, DMK supporters had hailed him as the “rising star in the political firmament” and “the future hope of Tamil youths”. Senior DMK leaders like general secretary K. Anbazhagan had spoken of the need to “pass on the leadership responsibility to the next generation”.

Today’s statement from Baalu, the “number two” in the DMK’s parliamentary party since Murasoli Maran fell ill, has the sanctity of the written word, observers said.

Party chief Karunanidhi had said recently that the DMK’s general council would elect its top-level leaders.

Jayalalithaa had targeted Karunanidhi and son Stalin in a recent diatribe in the Assembly.

“If Stalin is called the thalapathi (commander) of the youth wing (of the DMK), why is he not to be seen in the Assembly'” she had asked. At a meeting in Erode two days ago, she was equally caustic.

Karunanidhi had explained his continued absence from the Assembly at a news conference here yesterday. He put it down to apprehensions that he could again be attacked inside the House as in 1989.

But Baalu joined issued with Amma on Stalin.

Listing some of the “preposterous charges” Jayalalithaa had levelled against leaders in the past, Baalu referred to her saying that deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani was suffering from “selective amnesia”.

On her calling Stalin “inactive”, Baalu pointed to his presence in the House to round off a debate on the Governor’s address. “Stalin was denied an opportunity with the Opposition being forced to leave the House after pandemonium broke out,” he reminded.

The Union minister accused the chief minister of picking on Karunanidhi and Stalin. “Until the sun rises in a new dawn, the people of Tamil Nadu and DMK partymen will lie low,” he said.

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