Exclusive: MK Stalin's big plan to capture ADMK's fortress...Will Salem end its elusive game with DMK?

If there is one thing that would make 2022 a memorable year for Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, it would be DMK's uprise in the fortress of the rivals under his leadership. MK Stalin has completed 10% of his tenure as the Chief Minister and amid the forthcoming challenges, the rest of his tenure in office would be the turning point for his leadership in the governance and in the party. As he nears his first complete year as the Chief Minister, he has been drawing out a plan to defeat the rival ADMK and capture what remains to be the latter's fortress. 

DMK has won the 2021 assembly polls in Tamil Nadu as the single largest party in the assembly with a clear majority. While MK Stalin's leadership and his strategies of accommodating more parties in the alliance have to be credited, an equal share of the credit must go to the anti-incumbency wave against Edappadi Palaniswami. Though the DMK won big in Chennai and in the northern and southern districts, most of the western and central districts had voted for the ADMK as several top ADMK leaders belong to these regions. 

In particular, the districts like Coimbatore and Salem had strongly punished the DMK by electing the members from the ADMK. Amid growing support for his government that was seen in the recently-held rural local body polls, the real test for MK Stalin as the DMK President is to develop the party in the areas where it was punished by the ADMK. Recently, he had appointed some of the DMK bigheads to these western and central districts to carry out the works to enhance the party's base, thereby weakening ADMK's strongholds.

MK Stalin has now drawn a plan to win Salem, the home district of Edappadi Palaniswami. Salem has eleven assembly constituencies and in the 2021 polls, the district had awarded only one seat to the DMK while the rest were won by the ADMK and its alliance. The lack of a prominent face for DMK after Veerapandi Arumugam has been a big drawback for the ruling party. This scarcity of a powerful district leader had stirred several factions within the DMK and MK Stalin is aiming to fix all these glitches much ahead of the urban local body polls. 

According to our sources, MK Stalin has appointed senior minister and DMK's Principal Secretary KN Nehru as the party's in charge in Salem. Nehru has been tasked to integrate and work with three DMK leaders in the district including the lone MLA Rajendran. As the first phase, the leaders have been working to revive the party's base from the stronghold of Veerapandi Arumugam and to speak to the local people about MK Stalin's administration and his handling of the challenges. 

Days back, MK Stalin has come to Salem to inaugurate government projects worth Rs 1,242 crore for the district. The district party unit has awarded a grant welcome to the Chief Minister as thousands of people had gathered for the inauguration event. While addressing the event, Stalin had largely refrained from slamming the previous ADMK regime and instead, he concentrated on speaking about the relationship that the late DMK president Karunanidhi had with Salem and how Veerapandi Arumugam and worked and developed the party in the district. 

Importantly, the inaugural event had the presence of the MLA from Pattali Makkal Katchi, which observes an alliance with the ADMK, though it contested the rural local body polls independently. While speaking at the event, PMK MLA Arul has lauded Chief Minister MK Stalin for his dynamic administration and for effectively addressing the Covid-19 pandemic. Another PMK MLA Sadhasivam has said that MK Stalin has been a down-to-earth Chief Minister who can be met easily anytime. The DMK cadres were surprised to see the compliments for the Chief Minister from the PMK legislators. 

Following the inaugural event, he had unveiled the portrait of former DMK MLA Veerapandi Raja, the son of Veerapandi Arumugam, who had died months ago. The Chief Minister had then held a review meeting with the government officials and he had ordered the authorities and the party cadres to swiftly act on the petitions and issues raised by the people as he aims to win the urban local bodies in Salem district under his leadership.

He had passed such an order for the officials as the urban local body polls would be taking place in February next year. The officials are now attempting to clear the issues of the people as per Stalin's order and by expressing hope that Salem will end its elusive game with the DMK, the local cadres have said that the party will win big in the urban local body polls and defeat ADMK's fortress. They also added that in his seven months as the Chief Minister, MK Stalin has visited Salem six times, which implies that he is committed to capturing Salem, along with other ADMK strongholds, to make the upcoming year memorable.