An Indian politician named after Joseph Stalin is set to become chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu – a role he has been groomed for since birth – after his party’s comfortable victory in state assembly elections.
Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin, 68, born four days before his namesake’s death in 1953, is the son of the late five-time chief minister M. Karunanidhi, the hugely popular president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party.
After votes were counted on Sunday, it emerged that the DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance – a political coalition of left-leaning parties, including India’s two major communist parties – defeated the incumbent ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, which is a regional member of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing National Democratic Alliance.
In an emotional victory statement, Stalin said, “It was our aim to get DMK back to power when Kalaignar [his father] was alive. But time got the better of us. To fulfill that dream, all of us worked tirelessly. This victory is recognition for all that hard work.”
Stalin, who remained in his father’s shadow until his death aged 94 in 2018, began his political journey as a 13-year-old DMK organizer. He formed the party’s youth wing in 1980 and served as its secretary until 2017. He has also been a former deputy chief minister of the state.
The victory, which brings the DMK back to power for the first time in a decade, came on the back of a campaign focused on strengthening the state’s linguistic identity and autonomy, as well as on promising jobs and growth.
However, Stalin’s immediate challenge will be to navigate the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is likely to have been exacerbated by the election.
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