MK Stalin - A peek into his life

With the rays of the sun, MK Stalin wakes up to start the day with his brisk morning walk at the IIT(M) campus. There is something in the air at that time of the day in the lush greenery, where spotting a deer in the middle of the city is a common sight. It definitely evokes a kind of kindred with the city and its people. And with that thought of what he can do to this place he calls home, and what the city has done for him, MK Stalin muses and begins his day.

He is a simple man who like any other takes great pleasure in playing with his grandchildren, chatting up with friends, and eating a home cooked meal specially laid out by his wife. But his greater need is always to serve the people of Tamil Nadu and there is no denying that his achievements thus far, stand testimony to this.

Close to half-a-century later, MK Stalin is content with his accomplishments so far… but does it ever stop? Not in this ever evolving State of Tamil Nadu where developments lead to more developments, social changes call for more changes and where culture meet and churn out more traditions. But MK Stalin is ready as always to meet these challenges, as to him it’s a place close to his heart and which holds the future of the Tamil- a word which has many meanings and symbolizes its people, its language and its culture!

Those were the days, when a young Tamil Nadu of independent India was being shaped by social reformist politics. MK Stalin’s father Kalaignar Karunanidhi, a Dravidian leader, was a man on a mission. With the garb of the pen and powerful oratory to back a sharp mind, he was seen as the icon of Tamil identity in an India that was in transition. Marching strong on the drive to anti-Hindi imposition and Dravidisthan, Kalaignar was busy chiseling the social entropy of Tamil Nadu, in his inimitable style.

Amidst this social awakening, Muthuvel Karunanidhi and Dayalu Ammal’s third son was born on 1st March, 1953. He was named after the revolutionary leader Joseph Stalin of Russia; a name thus predetermined to find a place in politics- a name destined to lead. It was a name that caused many hurdles, but every obstacle became a step on the ladder to get where he wanted.

Stalin once said, “The more encouraging and nourishing a childhood is, the greater are the chances of creating confident individuals”, which was a reflection of his own childhood but a contrast to the tribulations of a public life that he was stepping into. Along with his sister Selvi, brothers Alagiri and Tamil, Stalin kept the household lively and on their toes. But growing up amidst politically and intellectually charged environment where the likes of Anna, Kamaraj and MGR walked in on a daily basis had its effects on young Stalin. He was naturally drawn into this political era which was creating history.

What Stalin lacked in academics he compensated with his great inter-personal skills and amicable nature for which he was always chosen unanimously as a leader in any camp. After being rejected in a few schools because of his name and background he was admitted into Madras Christian College School.

His class mate Dawood Miya Khan, a leader of Indian Muslim League recalls his early childhood friendship with Stalin. He says, "Some of the teachers were anti-DMK. They were antagonistic of Stalin, because he was Kalaignar's son. This was a period when Kalaignar and DMK were not only gaining political foothold but were also making inroads into breaking and shattering the social discrimination of the then society. The anger and antagonism against Stalin was quite high, for no fault of his. Despite many sarcastic comments and criticism, Stalin would keep his cool and would behave in a very dignified manner. He was conscious of the fact that he was carrying a legacy and he never did anything that could disrepute his father. He simply used to ignore all those who bullied him."

Without any aspirations, Stalin's public life started at school unexpectedly. In what was a humble beginning in a barber's shop, he got his father's and the DMK ward's permission to start the Youth Wing in Gopalpuram. The Children Reformation Society took shape under him too. While none took him too seriously, they did notice his sincerity and initiative to do his bit for the party and society.

But soon he was organizing rallies for students, spreading the word about DMK and getting people to join the party; thus gaining popularity within the party as well as the people for his simple, yet thoughtful work. They were small but significant steps.

It was time for college, and MK Stalin enrolled for a graduation in history from Chennai’s Presidency College. Stalin found theatre a perfect platform to express his beliefs, and became a member of a drama troupe which traveled across the length and breadth of Tamil Nadu. His natural penchant for the stage and public speaking kindled a social awakening among the people and catapulted him to the next stage in his journey.

This was also a remarkable phase for the DMK. The same year that MK Stalin was born, MG Ramachandran(MGR), the matinee idol, joined the DMK party. The party started making huge inroads with rural people and the socially deprived classes. Growing up in the presence of social reformists, Tamil language enthusiasts and political big-wigs, young MK Stalin was awe-inspired, and MGR became his idol. MGR saw the potential Stalin exhibited and further fuelled his aspirations and enthusiasm by extending his support. And thus categorically he stepped into the public life and out of Dr. Kalaignar’s shadow that always weighed him down.

Dr.Kalaignar had his inhibitions about his son following his path into politics, hence never made an effort to groom him or encourage him. He always stood by the firm notion that the party will choose its leaders. But destiny decided to repeat itself and chose young Stalin; it was a natural phenomenon that transpired.

From MK Stalin's perspective, being the son of such an illustrious father was a huge challenge – and in many ways a disadvantage. As he grew up, Stalin learnt to carry this burden and convert it as a positive influence. He carved his own niche and identity, despite the challenges. He has often said that he looks upon his father more as an inspiring leader, an icon and a mentor, rather than a father. Soon Dr. Kalaignar started seeing through his impartiality, his son’s true potential and accepted it.

Over the decades, MK Stalin has gained the respect of the people and proved himself at good governance. The period of his tenure, have always been recorded in bringing about immense changes and advancement in Tamil Nadu. Today, everybody within and outside the party see him as a leader in his own right, and never as a representative of dynastic politics.

He was 23 when he married Durga (alias) Shantha, and was arrested under Maintenance of Internal Security Act(MISA) all in the same year of 1976, under the orders of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. As a political prisoner under Maintenance of Internal Security Act(MISA), he became a national sensation and became a victim of the Emergency Days and political vendetta – the dark phase of Indian democracy. With the DMK facing a few pitfalls in its political timeline, MK Stalin stood up to the challenge and proved his strength in these tough times.

Since 1982, he has led the DMK Youth Wing, a pet project of his which gained momentum very quickly and became a huge driving force for the party youth. In 1984, he was appointed secretary of the youth wing. Under his aegis, the Youth Wing brought about radical changes through its various outreach programs, innovative schemes and organizational strength.

The cadres are each trained and empowered with responsibilities. It was an opportunity to do good, and emulate their beloved leader MK Stalin to bring reforms and help the people. Under his leadership the DMK youth Wing flourishes with thousands of cadres joining every year.

His slow yet steady rise within the party saw him being elected as the Deputy General Secretary of the DMK in 2003. After years of handling party affairs with commitment and expertise, he was appointed as Treasurer in 2009. But all through, his position as Secretary, Youth Wing is the closest to his heart.

He has risen to occasions and challenges, proved at every turn that he's tough and gets going and loved by the people and respected by his enemies.

For many even outside of the DMK, he is the face of the party - now and for the future.

August 2009

Anna University, India's largest technical University, conferred upon MK Stalin, the DMK's youth wing leader and Tamil Nadu's first Deputy Chief Minister, an honorary Doctorate for his unique contributions to governance and social development.

Feburary 2012

The Kentucky Colonel Award, the highest honour accorded by the commonwealth of Kentucky State in USA was conferred upon him for his public service. He was also bestowed the honour of becoming Kentucky's goodwill ambassador, sharing this platform with the likes of Former US Presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Ronald Reagan, Nobel Prize winner and former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, renowned boxing champion Mohammad Ali, among others.

MK Stalin is married to Durga (alias) Shantha. His wife is his biggest support, who understands and endures the tough life of politics and being married to a politician. MK Stalin has two children, Udhayanidhi and Senthamarai. They are married to Kiruthiga Udayanidhi and Sabarish, respectively.

Udhayanidhi Stalin is a successful Tamil cinema producer and actor. He is the owner of Red Giant Movies, a banner which has produced and distributed many box office hits since, 2009. His wife Kiruthiga Udhayanidhi who also pursues in this field, is a film director. They have a son and a daughter.

His daughter Senthamarai heads a Montessori school called Sunshine Academy and Sunshine Chennai, and his son-in-law Sabarish heads an IT company. They have a son and a daughter.

M.K.Stalin is an ardent lover of sports, arts and cultural activities. He spends much of his free time playing Cricket, badminton, Chess, etc with his grand children.

A loving father, a compassionate citizen, a powerful statesman - as one role compliments another, MK Stalin's true calling is to lead the people of Tamil Nadu to the forefront and make it an ideal State. If hard work prevails then that day is not far… after all 40 years is but a lifetime dedicated to the people of Tamil Nadu. A leader is not just born but elected to lead- MK Stalin’s record ascertains people’s choice and faith in him- it’s a role he takes on humbly and seriously!

The year 1975 was a dark year for Indian democracy. It was the year when Indira Gandhi, the then Congress Prime Minister of India, declared Emergency on the Country, suppressing civil rights and unleashing a rein of terror. The young MK Stalin was stepping into a world of tumultuous politics where sincere work for a good cause, was not the only defining factor of leadership, anymore.

He understood that the country was heading for tough times, as Mrs.Gandhi's government was in crisis. What he didn't anticipate was the absolute failure of the Indian Democratic system. As Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha of Allahabad Court declared Mrs.Gandhi's election win null and void, and banned her from contesting elections for the next six years, an unimaginable break down of the constitution shook up the country. Mrs.Gandhi decided to muzzle the voice of the Cabinet and used the good offices of a meek President like I.Fakruddin Ali Ahmed, to proclaim emergency under clause(1) of Article 352 of the Constitution, citing that “the security of India was threatened by internal disturbance."

This autocratic and self-styled approach, where she treated the country as her personal fiefdom, was backed by the President, word by word. Emergency was proclaimed late night on the 25th of June, 1975 and was approved by an equally dumb-stuck-and-scared-to-dissent cabinet, on the 26th of June 1975. Over the next few days, the cabinet approved several regulations that included suspending democracy, imposing severe restrictions on free speech, dissent and political activities across the country. Top leaders were muffled through arrests. At least nine high courts pronounced that even after the declaration of an emergency, a person's detention could be challenged. The Supreme Court over-ruled all of them. The State was given the power to detain anybody with absolute powers to arrest, to suspend personal liberties and to deprive anyone of their right to life – Completely flaying away the very essentials of the Constitution of India. Many political workers went 'underground.'

Mrs.Gandhi's Emergency was strangling the voice of reason, and pushing right-thought to the gallows.

Down south, the DMK was seen as a torch bearer of democracy from Tamil Nadu. Kalaigner Karunanidhi, his social, and language activism were seen as large attributes of dissent. He was also seen as a threat because he backed the leadership of the Janata Party. As soon as Emergency was clamped, the DMK government under Kalaignar Karunanidhi was dissolved, removing his powers to reach his voice of reason to his people.

By now, Mrs.Gandhi became adept at every trick in the book that could break the spirit of able leaders – And the most effective one, she knew, was to make them watch their children suffer. MK Stalin was seen as the best “star” target for those implementing Emergency in Tamil Nadu – Every blow on him was expected to send a chill down the spine of dissent leaders and their party members across the State.

On 31-01-1976, senior police officers landed at Kalaignar's Gopalapuram residence to arrest MK Stalin. His father, the ex-Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu was told that they had to detain his son under Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). He informed them that MK Stalin was away from his home, actively participating in a stage show as part of party propaganda, at Madhurandhagam. The police came back the next day to arrest him and lead him to the Chennai Central jail.

As he bid adieu to his parents, and his teary-eyed young wife, Kalaignar quipped to MK Stalin "Indira Gandhi has decided to make you a great political leader. Get ready to face the worst, and take it with a stout heart." His prophetic words gave the unassuming Stalin, a lot of courage and resolve.

At the jail, MK Stalin was unsure whether he must be happy to see a lot of his fellow DMK men already languishing in those dirty and inhospitable cells, or whether he should be sorry to see them in such despair. But he later recalled that “for that moment, it was comforting to see a few known faces.” Having Chittibabu, Arcot Veerasamy, Neela Naryanan and V.S.Govindarajan around helped in dispelling the fear of uncertainty.

This sense of relief did not last long, though. Severely cramped cells, unhygienic floors and walls, a broken mud pot that served to urinate, and heavily salted porridge with ground chillies for breakfast was quite a successful recipe at breaking anyone's spirit – It did for all those around him. But not MK Stalin. He was willing to get used to the conditions. But what he was not prepared for, was blows of the mighty kind!

The following night he was singled out, roughed up and beaten in the most inhuman way by jail supervisors Ghayam and Surulirajan – Obviously, they did not realize that he could live to narrate his tortuous tale. MK Stalin was beaten so badly that Chittibabu who couldn’t bear seeing the young Stalin suffering, lunged forward to save him from a few of those blows – But those blows were fatal on Chittibabu. Soon after a night of terror, as everyone was moaning and crying out for water, Stalin gathered himself and helped his fellow prison mates easing their pain.

In the next couple of days he was shifted away to another cell and was put into solitary confinement. A few days from then, Chitti Babu's health deteriorated and he passed away, leaving an inconsolable MK Stalin. That incident left an indelible mark on his mind. MK Stalin understood the fraility of life, yet knew it was an honour to die fighting for what one believes in. That silent, yet steely resolve to face reality as it hits you, took shape in those wee hours of solitary confinement – And in those hours, a leader of Tamil Nadu was emerging from those dark shadows of injustice and slain democracy.

On 01-03-76, Kalaignar came to visit his son in the prison. MK Stalin shared nothing about the reality of his life in prison with his father, but the father had experienced enough of revolution and its aftermath and well understood his son’s full-cuffed hands and brave smiles. He left with a heavy heart, but was proud that the DMK had produced another son of valour.

MK Stalin kept himself busy in 12-month long prison life, with books and active discussions with his party men. He wrote his BA University exams in April 1976, under police protection.

On March 21, 1977 the Union Cabinet recommend to the President to revoke the proclamation of Emergency under Article 352 (1) of the Constitution, and the President approved the revocation of the same under Article 352(2) of the Constitution. The withdrawal of several draconian laws, and the release of political prisoners began. MK Stalin was released on 23-01-1977.

The election held in March 1977 saw a vanquished Mrs Gandhi and Congress and Morarji Desai of Janata Party took over as the Prime Minister. The new government instituted inquiries into the atrocities in prisons and justice. MK Stalin testified before the Ismail Commission and deposed about the dark rooms, boot leg kicks, repeated slapping on the cheeks and deadly assaults. He shared his experience of eating food mixed with neem oil, Idlies peppered with stones, salty porridge and the outnumbered plates doing the rounds.

The commission recorded his statements on how two the DMK detinus Chittibabu and Madurai Balakrishnan, lost their lives due to assaults by the police personnel. The depositions from the other MISA detenus revealed the mindless violation of human rights in Independent India, under MISA.

Prison experience not only altered MK Stalin forever but strengthened his determination to make the difference to a supposedly democratic system that needed much reformation and radical change.

MK Stalin has emerged over the years as a valued leader, with Statesman-like qualities.

What are the qualities that define good leadership? - Practical intelligence, Social intelligence and Emotional intelligence. Practical intelligence is the ability to take control of a situation or work towards creating situations that will help supporters move forward in the direction they'd like to. Social intelligence is one's ability to interact successfully with others; having a good grasp of social situations and processes. Knowing what to say, when and how to package it, according to the dictates of a situation is social intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to stay connected with people at an emotional level.

MK Stalin is a rare mix of all the three traits, in the right proportions, helping him strike a balance between being a Statesman and a Leader.

He has an innate knack to assess the minds, ambitions and priorities of his followers. He has often displayed his sense of appreciation to all those small things in life of his followers.

What makes him unique is his ability to see through who is the best person for a job and assign it to them, giving them the autonomy to execute the job and be the first person to praise them in public for their work, or admonish them in private if it is not done well. Not many have been unfortunate enough to be in the latter situation. His charisma the sincerity with which he connects with people, and his own tireless style of working inspires his followers to give their best.

How does he manage to command a large following, wherever he goes? Why do people congregate to take his word as the gospel truth?

It is said that followers choose to be led. There is an inseparable thread of shared values and beliefs of the members of the DMK who eagerly look forward to MK Stalin as their leader who understands their minds, their ambitions and the way they want to be led.

At the end of the day, leadership is one's ability to get others to willingly follow. Statesmanship is the ability to take this goodwill to excellence in governance.

MK Stalin scores high on both the accounts.

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