Tamil Nadu: Here’s Why OPS and EPS Decided To Bury Their Differences And End AIADMK Internal Wrangle

M R Subramani

Oct 08, 2020, 02:32 PM | Updated 02:32 PM IST

OPS and EPS.
OPS and EPS.
  • For now, the AIADMK has saved itself from a split.
  • It all now depends on how its affairs are conducted after Sasikala comes out of prison and how it fares in the assembly elections due next year.
  • Yesterday (7 October), Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) was declared as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chief ministerial candidate for the state assembly elections due in seven months.

    The announcement came after the differences within the party, particularly with Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS), were sorted out. It also ended a tug of war that been going on in the party for almost three weeks now.

    While ending the internal wrangle, both EPS and OPS have had their demands fulfilled. As regards EPS, he wanted to be declared the chief ministerial candidate.

    OPS had demanded the setting up of an AIADMK steering committee to take care of the party affairs. It was his main demand to rejoin the party in 2017 after he briefly left it when he was replaced as the chief minister by EPS.

    OPS had voted against a confidence motion moved by EPS in the Tamil Nadu Assembly in February 2017. Both patched up though when T T V Dinakaran, nephew of Sasikala Natarajan, tried to become the chief minister. Natarajan was the closest aide of former chief minister and AIADMK supremo, J Jayalalithaa.

    Over the last three weeks, the AIADMK internal strife had become the centre of media focus with questions being asked if EPS-OPS unity will continue. To add fuel to fire, OPS tweeted on Monday that whatever decision he took would be keeping in mind the welfare of the people, of the state and the party workers.

    Had OPS and EPS not come together, it would have resulted in handing an advantage to the principal opposition party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). It would have led to a 'loss-loss' situation for both these AIADMK leaders.

    The AIADMK was forced to announce its chief ministerial candidate as the DMK had declared its president M K Stalin as its candidate for the post. This is the first time that AIADMK has made such a declaration.

    Since the party was founded in 1971 by Tamil movies matinee idol M G Ramachandran (MGR), the AIADMK had been approaching the elections with an undeclared message that MGR and after him, Jayalalithaa, would be the chief ministerial candidates.

    EPS and OPS have been smart enough to understand the damage that would have been caused to the AIADMK if they were to part ways.

    One, there would have been a vertical split in the party that would have even affected the survival of the government until elections are due.

    Two, the split would have occurred on caste lines with the Gounder community, which is influential in the western parts of the state, backing EPS, and the Thevar community, which wields influence in the southern parts, supporting OPS.

    A split would have also sent wrong signals on EPS track record. EPS has been able to match the work of his predecessors on the administration side, while politically he has been able to ward off the DMK’s attempts to capture power.

    Thus, it was imperative for EPS to be projected as the chief ministerial candidate. On the other hand, OPS had to be taken care of.

    To his credit, OPS didn’t insist or claim that he should be projected as the leader. Probably, he is playing a waiting game to cash in on any confusion to take over.

    It also raises suspicion if OPS is confident about the prospects of his party, which has been in power since 2011. An anti-incumbency factor can come into play in the elections next year.

    If the party loses power, then it could pave the way for OPS to take a strong grip of the party.

    OPS’ main objective was to wield power in the party and he seems to have achieved it to some extent by getting five of his supporters nominated to the steering committee.

    The nominees of EPS are all ministers in the current cabinet and in a way this reveals how a majority of them would have backed the current Chief Minister to serve their own interests in case of any split.

    It was wise of EPS and OPS to realise that both could end losers in case of parting ways.

    More importantly, there is a lurking danger in the return of Sasikala Natarajan from prison in January. She is currently serving a four-year sentence at the Bengaluru Parppana Agrahara central jail for amassing wealth disproportionate to her known sources of income.

    Sasikala’s return, in the event of a split between OPS and EPS, would have led to AIADMK party leaders and workers queuing up before her. In that eventuality, too, both would lose.

    Though Sasikala has been expelled from the AIADMK, a split in the party would have helped her in making a comeback.

    That would have resulted in both these leaders being sidelined and eventually, the late Jayalalithaa's aide’s choice would have been foisted on the party.

    For now, the AIADMK has saved itself from a split. It all now depends on how its affairs are conducted after Sasikala comes out of prison and how it fares in the assembly elections.

    M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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