DMK leaders pledge support to Stalin (Lead)

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Chennai : Top DMK leaders on Tuesday made it clear that they and the party were solidly behind its Working President M.K. Stalin, whose father and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi died a week ago.

An emergency meeting of the Executive Committee was called at the DMK headquarters here with a single agenda - to pass a resolution condoling the death of DMK President Karunanidhi.

The meeting was chaired by Stalin, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.

After the passage of the condolence resolution that praised Karunanidhi and listed his numerous achievements, party leaders including Duraimurugan, T.R. Baalu and others expressed their support to Stalin and urged him to take over the party's mantle.

"Working President and soon-to-become President, lead us and we will obey your orders," Duraimurugan thundered.

Addressing the gathering, former Union Minister Baalu said in a quivering voice: "The commander of the army is no more. Nobody has to tell who will be the next commander. Stalin has all the qualities to lead."

Several District Secretaries of the party also voiced their staunch support to Stalin as the party's top leader.

On his part, a normally clean shaven Stalin, sporting an unshaven face, said: "I have lost not only my leader but also my father."

Opening up on the subject publicly for the first time, he said he had pleaded with Chief Minister K. Palaniswami to allot space at the Marina beach to bury Karunanidhi.

"I held the hands of the Chief Minister and pleaded for space. They did not agree."

After the announcement of Karunanidhi's death at 6.10 p.m. on August 7, the government issued a statement formally refusing a burial space at Marina.

Praising the DMK's legal team led T. Wilson, Stalin said they approached the Madras High Court late at night and won the case the next day.

Stalin said had the case been lost, a situation would have arisen leading to his own burial next to Karunanidhi.

Tuesday's meeting came a day after expelled DMK leader M.K. Alagiri, Stalin's elder brother, asserted that "true loyalists" of Karunanidhi were with him and that Stalin was a poor leader.

Paying homage to Karunanidhi, Alagiri, expelled from the DMK in 2014 for criticizing party leaders, told reporters that he had poured his anguish about the party to his father and not about his family.

But as expected, the Executive Committee lined up behind Stalin.

The elevation of Stalin as the party President will have to be decided by the DMK's General Council. The party has not announced a date for a General Council meeting.