An Indian politician named after Joseph Stalin is set to become chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu 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.
His son has been groomed for power since birth.
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 – had 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 fulfil 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 organiser. 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 aggravated by the election.
The Indian Stalin – a committed democrat – admitted in a 2019 newspaper interview that his name had caused some awkward moments in Russia.
“As soon as I landed at a Russian airport, I was asked to mention my name. When I said ‘Stalin’, many people at the airport started looking at me,” he told the Times of India.
“While checking my passport, officials asked me several questions before I was allowed in,” he said of his 1989 trip.
“Many people in Russia didn’t like Joseph Stalin.”