MK Stalin

The Corporation of Chennai is headed by a Mayor, and technically the Mayor is the first citizen of Chennai, and he/she is the chief of the Chennai Municipal Corporation, a civiv body that has a history of 326 years. Chennai also has the hoary distinction of being the first Mayoralty outside of the United Kingdom and was inaugurated on the 29th of September, 1688.

For a corporation which has such a rich tradition of handling municipal administration, MK.Stalin was the first elected Mayor in its entire history. In 1996, he defeated his nearest contender by over 4 Lakh votes and that was no mean task to win the confidence of a city that had huge demands. But he understood that there was a genuine need for an efficient head who’d take up the challenges of a rapidly, yet chaotically expanding Chennai. During his tenure between 1996 – 2002, he set new standards to Mayoralty and efficiency in Urban administration. To this date, he is looked upon as the most respected Mayor of Chennai in the last two decades. He was re-elected as Mayor in 2001, but was forced to resign in 2002, due to a political manipulation by the then ruling party of Tamil Nadu.

He stepped down, without much fuss or ado, but continued to work for the people of Chennai, as a Youth Wing leader of the DMK, and as the Member of Legislative Assembly.

His Working Style

MK Stalin

Known for his organizational skills and penchant for perfection, MK Stalin was an exemplary administrator. For a corporation which was starved at many levels of governance and leadership, MK Stalin was like a breath of fresh air. He was patient while listening to grievances, but was aggressive in implementing schemes.

A party functionary shares, “The DMK came to power in 2006, because of his tireless efforts. Thalapathy lends a ear to everyone, before taking decisions, and all his decisions are well-balanced, and never appease or affront any one faction of the party or public."

In a state known for its hero-worship, MK Stalin took his achievements in a very matter-of-fact fashion. When he was at office, larger-than-life forms of exaggerated posters and flex boards were a big no-no. If any poster portrayed him as a General, God or a historic character, he ensured that it was promptly pulled down. He also micro-manages to an extent – things that are very dear to him – because he is clear that the outcomes for an assignment must be met, at any cost. If he is organizing a conference, he makes it a point to visit the hall two days prior to the event, offer suggestions and ensures that deadlines are kept.

As a Mayor he was balancing his act between the responsibilities of the civic body, his party positions and his responsibilities in the Assembly, in a seamless fashion.

As the Mayor, he would cover one area of the city a day, identify its problems and chart out a plan on the time frame of addressing those challenges. And then he’d make it a point to revisit that area again, six months later, to see if things had improved.

His lasting contributions

MK Stalin

Chennai was a typical urban setting in every which way – unpredictable immigrant and floating population, less of developed land, ever increasing strain on civic resources, mismanaged waste disposal methods, a transport system which was not on par with globalized economies and much more to add to its urban woes. Ironically, on most accounts Chennai was the best managed metropolitan city in India!

The city administration was in the hands of commissioners and special officers, who were selected year-after-year and they did not have any direct accountability to the people of the city. For almost 25 years, there were no elected representatives and when the DMK came to power in 1996, local body elections were held with a 33% reservation for women – The first of its kind in India.

MK Stalin's Mayorship will be remembered for his attention to detail, patient hearing of people's suggestions, feedback and complaints and for boldly setting new benchmarks and standards for the city and its management.

MK Stalin won the hearts of Chennai-ites with his:

  • Innovative and international methods of sanitation, garbage collection and waste disposal.
  • Foresight to lay storm water drains dredging and desilting of old canals. The monsoons and water-logging in Chennai became bearable, after that.
  • Visionary zeal to decongest traffic snarls in Chennai. He planned and constructed over-bridges and mini-flyovers to ease traffic congestion, in 9 critical places of Chennai, for an estimated cost of Rs. 94.50 crores. But he ensured that these flyovers were successfully completed for Rs 60.70 Crores. He was the first person holding a public position anywhere in India, to have returned money to the exchequer! And nothing about this operation was a smooth run – right from land acquisition, to plan approvals, from open tenders to choosing the right construction company and for insisting that quality audits are conducted by third-party professionals – every thing about these mini-flyovers was a rough ride. And people appreciate him for his transparency, rightly so.
  • Measures to improve standard of education in Chennai schools. With improved learning outcomes the percentage of children passing out of Tamil Nadu State board schools, saw a marked increase in the pass percentage and were competing well with other children from international boards.
  • Initiatives to strengthen Primary Health Care centers with better equipment and facilities. Due to increased employment opportunities, the city attracted a lot of migrant population – both blue and white collared. The Kalaignar Kaapeettu Thittam – a people friendly insurance scheme, entirely paid for by the DMK Government in Tamil Nadu, helped a lot of people from the lower strata of the society and they could get world-class health care, under the Mayor’s watchful eye.
  • Efforts to provide improved and affordable living conditions. Healthcare and basic accommodation was always a challenge for such people and as the city’s Mayor, he approached their day-to-day problems with the empathy of a mother and with the strict eye of an administrator.
  • Passion to study and where possible, travel, to the most populous cities in the world to understand their methods and management methodologies to tackle challenges of Urban landscapes. He adapted and adopted those that fit into our system and helped improve civic amenities, with equal stress on managing a healthy eco-system and means to reduce environmental hazards.