Stalin becomes deputy chief minister in Tamil Nadu (Roundup)

May 29th, 2009 - 7:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, May 29 (IANS) M.K. Stalin, the popular younger son of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and his chosen heir apparent, was Friday named the deputy chief minister in a clear signal that he would get to head the DMK and possibly rule the state one day.
With Karunanidhi, one of India’s longest surviving politicians, in poor health and at times seen in a wheelchair, Stalin’s elevation had been expected in the ruling DMK for some years. But most people seemed to be surprised by the suddenness of the announcement.

Wild celebrations erupted outside Stalin’s residence in the heart of Chennai after Governor Surjit Singh Barnala issued a statement appointing the 56-year-old as deputy chief minister on the advice of Karunanidhi. It is the first time Tamil Nadu will have a deputy chief minister.

Hundreds of DMK cadres including legislators and MPs, converged at Stalin’s residence and presented him garlands, bouquets and shawls. Some touched his feet in reverence.

Many more people celebrated outside, bursting crackers on the streets. Even some police officers came and shook hands with Stalin.

“I am happy at his elevation. It was his sacrifice, hard work and extensive campaigning that fetched the DMK alliance victory in the recent Lok Sabha elections,” DMK veteran and Electricity Minister Arcot N. Veeraswami told IANS. “He is a perfect fit for the post.”

Added central Communications and IT Minister A. Raja: “The elevation will be like a tonic for the party’s youth. This will attract more young people to join the DMK. It was his campaigning that led to the DMK victory in the Lok Sabha battle.”

Leaders of the Congress, which provides vital legislative support to the DMK government, also welcomed the decision.

According to a statement from the governor’s office, Stalin, now the rural development and local administration minister, will look after the departments of general administration, district revenue offices, industries, minorities welfare, social reforms, passports and special initiatives.

All these were the chief minister’s responsibilities until now.

Stalin’s elevation comes a day after his elder brother M.K. Azhagiri was sworn in as the central minister for chemicals and fertilisers Thursday in New Delhi. Stalin had attended the event.

DMK insiders and political analysts said Friday’s appointment was the clearest indication that Karunanidhi had named his heir apparent and also signalled that he was about to retire from active politics.

Named after Joseph Stalin, the DMK treasurer and youth wing secretary is popularly known as “thalapathi” or “commander” by party cadres. He was the mayor of Chennai from 1996 to 2002.

A graduate from the University of Madras, he has been elected to the state assembly four times since 1989 but became a minister only in 2006. He now represents Chennai’s Thousand Lights constituency, a DMK bastion that his father represented for a long time.

Stalin took to politics in 1973 and was jailed in 1976-77 under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) during the Emergency regime of prime minister Indira Gandhi.

At one point, long-time DMK MP Vaiko was seen as a threat to the political aspirations of Stalin. Once Vaiko left the DMK, Stalin’s stature increased dramatically.

Stalin, who has a son and a daughter, has acted in television serials.

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