A politician from South India is making headlines after his house in the city of Chennai (formerly Madras) was raided by police on suspicion of tax evasion.
This politician is particularly important since he is the regional leader of a party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which has just broken away from the Congress Party-led coalition that currently rules India.
The DMK, which represents the interests of the Dravidian and Tamil peoples of southern India, quit the coalition in protest over the New Delhi government’s failure to condemn atrocities committed against the Tamils during the Sri Lankan civil war.
The DMK is the principal party in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India, an area that is dominated by ethnic Tamils who are linked to their fellow Tamils across the water in Sri Lanka.
But, aside from the political intrigue surrounding the flap between DMK and Congress, the lawmaker in question is named Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin -- and, yes, he was named after the infamous Soviet dictator who is believed to have killed at least 20 million of his own people during his bloody 30-year reign.
M.K. Stalin, the former deputy chief minister of Tamil Nadu and ex-mayor of Chennai, is the son of the DMK party chief, Muthuvel Karunanidhi.
M.K. Stalin is slated to take over the party’s reins once his father dies – meaning the future of India’s national politics could have a man named Stalin playing a prominent and influential role.
“Stalin” is not a nickname, it is his given name – ironically, he was born on March 1, 1953, just four days before the death of his namesake.
M.K. Stalin’s father, M. Karunanidhi, now almost 90 years old, has led DMK since 1969 and hold the unique distinction of having never lost an election in his 60-year political career (something the other Stalin probably would be impressed by).
The naming of his son after Josef Stalin was apparently inspired by a man named Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, a leading Dravidian politician and activist (and founder of the predecessor of the DMK) who visited the Soviet Union sometime in the 1930s and was greatly impressed during his three-month stay with the economic and social advances that communism had imparted upon Russia. He sought to apply Marxist philosophies to his native Tamil Nadu.
During the 1930s and later, many families in India named their children after Soviet leaders, as many others named their offspring after prominent Nazi Germans, especially Adolf Hitler – as a reflection of how Indian nationalists had embraced European political movements which they viewed as enemies of their colonial master, Great Britain.
Thus, having a moniker like “Hitler” or “Lenin” or “Himmler” or “Stalin” was not at all unusual in India at the time.
On his personal website, M.K. Stalin admitted that his name has presented hurdles in his own political career (despite the fact that his father is probably the most powerful man in Tamil Nadu).
M.K. Stalin explained that when he sought admission to the Church Park convent school in Chennai (then called Madras), the authorities refused to accept him unless he changed his name. Refusing to do so, the boy simply went to another school.
Like him infamous namesake, M.K. Stalin was imprisoned during his youth for his political activities and now sports a jaunty mustache.
However, it is not clear that DMK adheres to a strict Communist ideology – indeed, over the years DMK has frequently clashed with its erstwhile allies, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India, over many issues.
But up until now at least, the name “Stalin” has not caused him too many problems – however, that may change if India ever faces the dilemma of having a prime minister or president named “Stalin.”
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.