Editorial: Definitive win, challenges ahead

Today, MK Stalin, who has been waiting in the wings for several years, finally takes oath as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
DMK President MK Stalin (File Pic)
DMK President MK Stalin (File Pic)

Chennai

Having cut his teeth in the politics of the state as a teenager, the DMK supremo has passed the 2021 Assembly polls with flying colours as he takes on the office of the CM at the age of 67, making him Tamil Nadu’s oldest first time Chief Minister. Stalin’s victory is amplified by the fact that this is the first time in 25 years that the DMK has secured a majority on its own, and that too, in the absence of the patriarch M Karunanidhi. 
By steering a successful election campaign, Stalin has already proved to be a shrewd player. His manifesto contained a plethora of populist measures, reminiscent of DMK in its heydays. Along with the provision of monetary support to women in all households, LPG grants, employment benefits to Tamilians, creation of 5.5 lakh jobs in the government sector, he also kept the party’s tradition of standing up to Central policies concerning the NEP, NEET and the CAA. However, on the fiscal front, the state’s debt is set to cross Rs 5 lakh crore in 2021-22, significantly contributed to by the AIADMK’s populist measures implemented in the run-up to the Assembly polls. As part of his own poll promises, Stalin has assured ration cardholders impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a sum of Rs 4,000. 
There are also a host of intangible issues that the DMK head will have to deal with. For starters, there is the image of the DMK that needs to be given a thorough overhaul. Critics of the Dravidian major have often called out the party for its supposedly ingrained traits of nepotism, and the corruption that has resulted from the same. Claims about land-grabbing that have been levelled against some functionaries of the party, as well as its reputation for holding kangaroo courts, its inability to attract investments into Tamil Nadu, and being party to high profile scams such as the 2G spectrum allocation, also hang like a spectre in the background. 
Stalin has inherited the fallout of the pandemic which has severely impacted the economy and the healthcare infrastructure of Tamil Nadu. Post the electoral triumph, he started off by suggesting to top officials, who called on him as a matter of courtesy, that Remdesivir be sent to other major towns and cities in the state as well. But, he must be prepared for the full onslaught of the pandemic, which is revealing itself through a rapid rise in daily cases. And this comes in the backdrop of a new decentralised policy, which leaves the success or failure to control the spread of COVID squarely in the hands of each state government. 
Indications show that Stalin is ready for a non-confrontational relationship with the Centre, while maintaining his push for cooperative federalism. His maturity as a politician was clearly on display when he assured the Centre his support for restarting the two oxygen plants at the embattled Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit at Thoothukudi. 
It’s not an easy road ahead for Stalin, but as it’s often been quoted, every challenge brings an opportunity, and one hopes that Tamil Nadu’s 8th CM and his newly anointed cabinet will rise above all the challenges as they start their journey, buoyed by trust of the people of Tamil Nadu.

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