The son has risen in the DMK as Udhayanidhi Stalin, the party’s youth wing secretary and an MLA, will become a minister in the Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday, 14 December, at 9.30 am, according to a communique from Raj Bhavan late on Monday.
According to sources in the DMK, Udhayanidhi is most likely to be given charge of the Youth Welfare and Sports Development Department, along with Special Programme Implementation.
While the Youth Welfare portfolio is currently being handled by minister Siva Meyyanathan, the Special Programme Implementation comes under his father and Chief Minister MK Stalin.
There is also speculation that Udhayanidhi could be considered for the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj.
While it took several years for his father, MK Stalin, to climb up the ladder in the party and even in the government — one of the reasons why the “dynasty politics” charge doesn’t stick on him — it seems like everything has been fast-tracked for Udhayanidhi.
Rapid rise in party
Udhayanidhi, who has just turned 45, was appointed as the party’s youth wing secretary — a post which Stalin Sr had held for over 30 years — a few months after the DMK swept the Lok Sabha polls. He had campaigned for the party aggressively across the state.
Likewise, he was elected to the Tamil Nadu Assembly for the first time from the Chepauk-Triplicane constituency in Chennai in May 2021. Once again, he was one of the star campaigners of the DMK during the Assembly elections.
Though the move to make him a minister was expected since the time DMK came to power after the Assembly polls, it kept getting delayed mostly due to Udhayanidhi’s film commitments, his “reluctance” and criticism of “dynasty politics” levelled against the Dravidian party, among other reasons.
With a room getting “readied” in the secretariat to accommodate the new minister, who will be the one of the youngest in the Cabinet, sources added that a seasoned bureaucrat could also be put in charge of the departments which would be handled by the DMK scion.
‘Time for next gen to come up’
Speaking to South First, a DMK leader said that it was time that the party “groomed” next-generation leaders.
Asked why other young leaders in the party, who are more experienced than Udhayanidhi, were overlooked, the leader said: “Udhay has proved that he can connect with the people and he can work hard. He has an appeal among the people. It is easier to reach out to people when you have someone who has a persona. So why not him? He is also the party’s first choice.”
“This move is not just for one individual. This will also help the party to connect with the youth of the state. He will bring in a fresh and renewed energy. So, by doing good work for the youth, the party will be able to get the support from the young people of the state,” the DMK leader added.
From cinema to politics
Before his political entry, Udhayanidhi has been actively working in the film industry.
In addition to producing and distributing films, Udhayanidhi began his acting career with a guest appearance in the film Aadhavan in 2009. Soon, he acted in films like Oru Kal Oru Kannadi and Nannbenda, and found a space in the comedy and romantic genres. However, of late, he has moved onto films with political undertones.
While Nenjukku Needhi was a Tamil remake of the Hindi film Article 15, which dealt with the subject of caste discrimination, his latest film Kalaga Thalaivan was about a takeover by a corporate giant affecting the lives of the common man.
His next, Maamannan, with popular director Mari Selvaraj, is also speculated to have political hues. Though Udhayanidhi had said that he would enter full-time politics to focus on the “people of Tamil Nadu” after Maamannan, his company — Red Giant Movies — is producing Kamal Haasan and Mani Ratnam’s next, which is tentatively titled KH-234.
As for his film production and distribution company, after the DMK came to power, many, including Opposition parties, have accused Red Giant of being like an “octopus” which is taking in the big films into its fold.
Udhayanidhi’s political stint so far
Amid strong criticism of “dynasty politics”, Udhayanidhi caught attention with his election campaigns for the party, both during the Lok Sabha elections and the state Assembly polls.
He spoke candidly many times, delivered some “punch dialogues” — to the extent that some of his witty remarks made several political observers draw parallels between him and his grandfather M Karunanidhi, who had a flair for humour and wit. His rallies and election meetings also drew huge crowds.
One of his most successful moves was when the DMK scion campaigned using a red brick with “AIIMS” written on it. He carried the brick to “expose” the BJP’s development plank as the AIIMS Madurai project had not moved forward, despite being announced a few years back.
As an MLA, Udhayanidhi has been actively working in his constituency. Especially during the Covid pandemic, the he was seen on ground distributing relief material to the affected public and helping others in need. He also has been listening to other grievances and trying to figure out solutions.
“After I became an MLA, even when I’m on set, I keep thinking about various works that need to be done in my constituency. I keep coordinating with my people to ensure that people get the help that they require, to check on the status of some complaints, etc,” Udhay said in one of his recent interviews with a Tamil YouTube channel.
However, according to political observers, what has drawn flak is his alleged interference in the administration, and him being given “undue prominence” during certain government events, and the sycophancy by the party workers to please the leader touted to be the “future of DMK”.
For instance, the birthday celebrations of Udhayanidhi on 27 November were a grand affair.
From inaugurating a ramp at Marina beach meant for disabled persons, to a minister in the DMK government presenting gold rings to babies born on 27 November and even going a step ahead by naming a few of them after Udhayanidhi, to the party’s official mouthpiece carrying pages and pages of birthday wishes, to the DMK IT wing mounting a social media campaign, to party units organising boat races, sky diving and rangoli competitions, to distributing welfare materials to the needy, and senior ministers and others making a beeline to greet him — the party members went out of their way to be in the “good books” of the youth wing leader.
தடைகளை தன்னம்பிக்கையால் வெல்லும் சாதனை மனிதர்களான மாற்றுத்திறனாளிகள், கரையை கடந்து கடல் அலை காண, ரூ.1.14கோடி மதிப்பீட்டில் மெரினாவில் அமைக்கப்பட்டுள்ள நிரந்தர பாதையை இன்று திறந்துவைத்தோம்.சட்டமன்றத்தில் நான் வைத்த கோரிக்கைக்கு செயல்வடிவம் தந்த முதல்வர்@mkstalin அவர்களுக்கு நன்றி. pic.twitter.com/xl278LZnui
— Udhay (@Udhaystalin) November 27, 2022
With his induction into the Cabinet on the penultimate day of the auspicious month of Kartigai in the Tamil calendar, the Opposition in Tamil Nadu will get fresh ammunition to hit out at the DMK for promoting just one family.
Speaking at a party event recently, Leader of Opposition Edapaddi K Palaniswami charged, “DMK is a family party. It is like a corporate company… The party does not respect those who work hard. Chief Minister MK Stalin has planned for his son’s coronation in a few days. Udhayanidhi is already earning in crores through films. He is now being made a minister to convert all the black money to white.”