DMK chief Karunanidhi is known to be a politician who can displace the word 'retirement' from the Indian political system. After the debacle in the state elections this year, Karunanidhi was reportedly under pressure to hand over a majority of the responsibilities to Stalin, who was then made 'Leader of Opposition'. Then came the pressure to announce his political heir.


On October 20, Karunanidhi made it official in an interview to a Tamil-weekly. "Stalin is my political heir, I'm not missing Alagiri in anyway," he said. The party's Bheeshma Pitha also ruled out rumours about his retirement. "Don't try to complicate things by stating that Karunanidhi is someone who would give 'retirement' a retirement. There is no question about handing over the leadership to Stalin. Truth is Stalin has been very much helpful and has been handling most of the party work."


Stalin, the third son of Karunanidhi, took over a large chunk of the party's administration from having campaigned for the party in 1967 elections to donning the role of the DyCM from 2009 to 2011. 


Karunanidhi has further explained that Stalin worked through the ranks, put in a lot of effort, endured all the pain to take on the reins of the party. Keeping that in mind, "he is the political heir".


"In actual terms, it means nothing. Karunanidhi is not saying he is retiring from active politics. He is only saying Stalin is next in line. Within the DMK, that is understood right from the time Alagiri was shown the door. As usual, Karunanidhi has played with words to make it seem he is saying a lot but actually not not saying anything new," says TS Sudhir, senior journalist.


Many term it the son-rise for the DMK, for the fight among the brothers Stalin and Azhagiri to take over the leadership of the party, was deep-rooted since 2013. When DMK pulled out from the central ministry, upset for not taking up the concerns of Tamils in Sri Lanka in the UN resolution against Tamils by Sri Lankan government, Azhagiri stepped down.


"Azhagiri was anyway a nobody in the party, right from the beginning," says R Mani, political analyst, "So Stalin was the expected choice." Azhagiri, the second son of the nonagenarian leader, was known as the commander of the Madurai region since 1989. He even won the ticket to the Madurai Loksabha constituency and won in 2009. 


However, massive protests ensued between the supporters of Azhagiri and Stalin. So much so that Azhagiri loyalists attacked the office of a media organisation owned by the grand-nephew of Karunanidhi for publishing an article in praise of the party's Thalapathy Stalin. Azhagiri was expelled from the party.


The father-son meetings in Azhagiri's house in Madurai raised speculation about Azhagiri's return to the party during the election campaign in April this year. It only paved the way for Azhagiri's downfall as Madurai metamorphosed into an AIADMK bastion in the last decade.


Stalin is busy right now spearheading protests taking up key issues like Cauvery. He garnered the support to leadership since 2003 when senior leaders of the party, including Durai Murugan, Ponmudi, R V Janakiraman and party old guards like K Velavendan and Nannan, asked Stalin to spear-head the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.


With strong sources suggesting the return of AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa from the hospital, DMK is setting the stage for 'Thalapathy' (commander) to rise as the 'Thala' (leader).