OPS, EPS must ensure AIADMK unity

OPS, EPS must ensure AIADMK unity

By THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN | 19 August, 2017

The ambition to win on the negotiating table what could not be secured on the field should not delay the inevitable merger of the two AIADMK factions. Despite full-scale support to him on the part of the BJP central leadership, former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam was unable to ensure a sufficient number of MLAs to deny incoming Chief Minister E. Palaniswamy a majority in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. Of course, there would have been hectic activities by the Sasikala faction to ensure the defeat of OPS, as he placed himself on a collision course with the Mannargudi clan, which, for nearly two decades, was in effect running the party as a consequence of the emotional hold of Sasikala Natarajan over Jayalalithaa Jayaram. Although Jayalalithaa had banned Sasikala from meeting the latter’s husband, it is obvious that she and Natarajan met every now and then. The relationship between the two remained strong, and in the final weeks of Jayalalithaa’s terminal illness, came into the open. However, Natarajan is a canny operator, and after a few appearances in the spotlight, has gone back into the shadows in which he operates best. His nephew Dinakaran would have been wise to follow his example, but ambition overpowered his more cautious instincts, and it became clear as soon as EPS settled into the Chief Minister’s chair that Dinakaran himself was raring to become the CM. It is certain that doting aunt Sasikala was also in favour of replacing EPS with T.T.V. Dinakaran, who would not have made moves towards the chair without her backing. However, such a power play alarmed EPS, who as a consequence began reaching out to OPS, who remained adamant on returning as Chief Minister. Hopefully, wiser counsel will prevail and ensure Panneerselvam gets off his high horse and make him see reason by accepting that EPS had way more support within AIADMK legislators than he himself did. The consequence of such a climbdown by OPS would open up the way for merger between the two major factions of the party, leaving only the Sasikala faction in the cold. Memories of the way in which the Mannargudi family treated AIADMK cadres played no small role in reducing the support base for Sasikala and Dinakaran. The fear was that the two would once again act as authoritarian as they did when Jayalalithaa was still alive and in the emotional grip of Sasikala. Neither Panneerselvam nor Palaniswamy is even a tad as imperious as Sasikala is or Jayalalithaa was. Sasikala’s mistake lay in believing that because she had a strong hold on the emotions of the departed Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, the people of Tamil Nadu would similarly embrace her. In fact, not only Sasikala, but her entire clan is known for not merely enormous wealth, but a very dismissive way of dealing with those they regard as subordinate to them. While Jayalalithaa with her enormous popularity could get away with such demonstrations of temper, the same is being frowned upon in the Sasikala clan. Indeed, the talk within AIADMK leadership circles is that it was some such altercation between Sasikala, Dinakaran and other family members on one side, and then Chief Minister Panneerselvam on the other that decided the mild-mannered “stepney” for Jayalalithaa herself to revolt against the clan. This made him a hero within those groups allergic to the Mannargudi clan, which in turn seems to have caused visions of grandeur that thus far have prevented him from doing the sensible thing and aligning with Palaniswamy by joining his government. Once the two factions come together, it is expected that the Election Commission will give back the AIADMK symbol, which would be a boost to the party. Whether it be MGR or Jayalalithaa, the party has sought to be close to the ruling party at the Centre, and it is therefore likely that the united party (minus Sasikala loyalists) will join hands with the BJP. The Sasikala faction may form its own party, but it is doubtful that any Opposition heavyweight will join hands with it to the discomfiture of the DMK. Overall, the AIADMK has a fresh chance to try and deliver a good administration to the people of Tamil Nadu. Both OPS and EPS need to work together if such a task is to succeed. 

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