For the first time in nearly three decades, there was no change of government after the 2016 elections in Tamil Nadu. There were clear signs of anti-incumbency across Tamil Nadu under the AIADMK regime but the DMK seemed just unable to take advantage. The DMK-Congress alliance lost the election narrowly and the vote difference was just two percentage points. A miffed Stalin told party workers that even if all the booth agents had voted, the party would have won.
Stalin’s peeve was understandable. His exasperation was evident. The DMK had always been a party where powerful district leaders held sway. Its leader M Karunanidhi allowed such leaders to flourish but over the years the cliques had led to an erosion of discipline and commitment among lower level workers. The DMK organization had become unwieldy and inefficient.
Stalin took it upon himself to take charge of the party organization and hone it. And he targeted the western region where the indiscipline had taken a particularly severe toll, and he removed the district secretary of Namakkal. Stalin then proceeded to make swift changes in the party hierarchy across the State.
In Theni and Namakkal, Stalin changed district secretaries twice in two years. This was not Karunanidhi’s style, party workers observed, but resembled J Jayalalithaa, his father’s fierce opponent. “The style of sacking district secretaries without an inquiry to some extent reflects AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa’s model of leading the party,” said a former DMK district secretary who led the organisation in a southern district.
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