The tectonic shift in the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam following the death of its leader J Jayalalithaa on December 5 has had a profound consequence on its chief rival in Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

With Sasikala Natarajan, the close aide Jayalalithaa, set to take over as the new general secretary of the AIADMK, the DMK has decided to elevate its treasurer MK Stalin, the son of party president M Karunanidhi, to a higher position.

For many, this development thas came a few years late. Karunanidhi has groomed Stalin to be his political heir for decades. Stalin’s biggest hurdle, though, was his own family. For years, his elder brother and former Union Minister MK Alagiri resisted any promotions for Stalin. But Alagiri was removed from the DMK in 2014 when he made derogatory remarks about Stalin in a television interview.

Over the last week, the broader political changes have smoothed the route for the 63-year-old youth wing secretary of the DMK to finally step into a much more prominent role.

Party officials told that Stalin is likely to be made the working president of the DMK when its general council meets on December 20. Karunanidhi will remain the president.

Challenging Sasikala

Senior leaders said there two reasons for the decision to elevate Stalin. To begin with, there is concern about the state of Karunanidhi’s health. The Dravidian patriarch was in the hospital all of last week. Given his advanced age of 94, leaders and his own family members feel time has come to cut down on work and focus only on guiding the party.

“He needs rest to ensure good health,” a party Member of Legislative Assembly said.

But the more crucial factor are the changes in the AIADMK. Karunanidhi’s persona and legacy have been shaped largely by epic rivalries with two icons – MG Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa. With Jayalalithaa’s death on Monday, party leaders feel Karunanidhi no longer has a rival worthy of his day-to-day attention.

“We cannot imagine equating our leader with Sasikala,” said a senior leader.

The leader claimed the new AIADMK dispensation is no match for Stalin’s track record either. After all, Stalin earned his stripes with his arrest under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act during the Emergency and served as deputy chief minister between 2009-’11.

Born in 1953, Stalin entered the Tamil Nadu Assembly in 1989 from Chennai’s Thousand Lights constituency. He served as the city’s mayor between 1996 and 2001, which put him firmly in the spotlight.

A promotion for him at this stage would also help Stalin consolidate his position before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

DMK constitution

A senior leader said the DMK’s constitution will have to be amended to accommodate the position of a working president. The amendments will have to clearly lay out the role and responsibilities of the post and will have to be ratified by the general council on December 20.

DMK general secretary K Anbazhagan, the senior-most leader in the DMK who is older than Karunanidhi, is likely to propose the amendment. In fact, there have been demands in the past asking Anbazhagan to resign and give up his post for Stalin.