Chennai, June 2: The DMK retained its old guard today even as it sought to give more berths to younger leaders at lower levels. M. Karunanidhi was re-elected party chief for a record ninth successive time and his younger son and youth wing leader, M.K. Stalin, elevated to deputy general secretary.
Karunanidhi, who turns 80 tomorrow, was elected unopposed to the top post at the general council meeting at Anna Arivalayam, the party headquarters.
One of the senior-most DMK district secretaries, Ko Si Mani, said Karunanidhi had been elected unanimously.
Mani, who was election commissioner for the last phase of the hotly-contested recent organisational election, also said K. Anbazhagan and Arcot . Veerasamy had been elected unopposed as general secretary and treasurer respectively.
Soon after taking the dais, Karunanidhi announced the elevation of his trusted lieutenant, Durai Murugan, deputy leader of the legislature party, as the DMK’s principal headquarters secretary. Murugan will liaise with the party’s frontal organisations and units outside Tamil Nadu.
Karunanidhi then sought the council’s approval for setting up a 20-member high-level policy-making body that will advise the party on all major issues.
It will be headed by the DMK chief and include top guns like Union ministers Murasoli Maran and T.R. Baalu, MP C. Kuppusamy and veterans like former minister Veerapandi S. Arumugam.
Karunanidhi announced M.K. Stalin as one of the three new deputy general secretaries. Others to be elevated are Paruthi Ilamvazhughi, a Dalit and former deputy Speaker, and S.P. Sarguna Pandian, a former minister.
Stalin’s elevation, at a time when DMK units in south Tamil Nadu are involved in factional struggle involving his elder brother, M.K. Azhagiri, is significant. The latter was arrested recently in connection with the murder of DMK veteran Pasumponn Kiruttinan during the party polls.
Stalin’s position in the party should be a lot more comfortable now as most of the newly-elected district secretaries are his supporters.
Karunanidhi said Stalin and Azhagiri had closed ranks even before Kiruttinan’s murder. He said the murder charge brought against Azhagiri by the Jayalalithaa government was “fabricated and devoid of any truth”, aimed at demoralising and splitting the DMK.
A resolution adopted at the meeting condemned Kiruttinan’s murder and accused Jayalalithaa of implicating him falsely. Police should act impartially to nab the real culprits, the resolution said.
Karunanidhi said police had selectively leaked excerpts from letters written to him by Azhagiri and Kiruttinan to tarnish the party’s image.
The party chief denied that Stalin’s promotion was a sign that the DMK was becoming dynastic.
“Why was this question not asked when G.K.Vasan (son of the late G.K. Moopanar) took over the reins of the Tamil Maanila Congress'” he asked.
Karunanidhi and Anbazhagan said Stalin’s elevation was no indication that he would become party chief. The promotion was an attempt to bring younger leaders to prominent positions, the party chief said, not ruling out a similar post for Azhagiri.
Anbazhagan said DMK leaders traditionally inherited the legacy of their predecessors, with Annadurai assuming Periyar’s mantle and Karunanidhi Annadurai’s.
Stalin enjoys a “special place” in the party and had been given additional responsibility as he interacted with the people the most after the party chief, Anbazhagan added.
Stalin said he did not consider his elevation a step towards succeeding his father as party chief. Playing down the significance of his new position, Stalin said: “They (senior leaders) want to encourage and strengthen the younger elements and I will strive to live up to their expectations and aspirations.”