Factional rivalries wrack AIADMK as Sasikala’s shadow looms over it

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Sasikala Natarajan.(File Photo: IANS)
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Chennai–¬†Even as the DMK is basking in the glory of successive electoral victories from the General elections of 2019 to the recent urban local body elections, the opposition AIADMK battered and bruised is now facing a major organisational crisis.

The AIADMK Theni district committee has recently held a meeting in the farmhouse of former Chief Minister and party chief coordinator O. Panneerselvam(OPS) in which a resolution was passed to induct expelled former interim general secretary, V.K. Sasikala, and her nephew and AMMK leader, TTV Dhinakaran back to the party.

Panneerselvam, who is the topmost leader of the party, attending the meeting had not gone down well with several party leaders, including party coordinator and former Chief Minister Edappady K. Palaniswami (EPS).

However, Panneerselvam informed the state leadership that he had directed the party Theni district leaders that he would forward the resolution adopted to the party high command and that he was not part of the resolution.

A couple of days after the Theni district committee passed the resolution for inducting Sasikala and Dhinakaran into the party, the former interim general secretary embarked on a tour of South Tamil Nadu on Friday and Saturday. While she claimed that it was a pilgrimage tour to Thiruchendur Subramania Swamy temple in Tiruneleveli district and a few other temples, she met several senior AIADMK functionaries of the area.

Among the leaders who met Sasikala was O. Raja, younger brother of O. Panneerselvam, who was also the district president of Aavin, Tamil Nadu Milk cooperative. The meeting of the duo was publicized in all the media, courtesy of Sasikala’s office.

This raised major speculations and the faction close to Edappadi K. Palaniswami raised the red flag and forced Panneerselvam to take action against his younger brother for meeting Sasikala. O. Raja along with a few other leaders of Theni district of the party were promptly expelled with both OPS and EPS signing the expulsion order.

This was seen by political observers as a forced action on the party of OPS as he is close to Sasikala at a personal level, being from the same caste, the powerful Thevar community of South Tamil Nadu. The community has a major vote bank in the districts of Dindigul, Theni, Tirunelveli, Madurai, Ramanathapuram districts of the state, and several Theni community elders had argued the case of Sasikala before the AIADMK leadership. The backlash that the party suffered in South Tamil Nadu, considered its bastion, was mainly due to the Thevar community crying foul against it. The Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam of TTV Dhinakaran also ate into the votes of AIADMK winning more than 100 seats in the urban polls, again with the support of the Thevar community.

While OPS was keen that Sasikala be back in the fold, the faction close to Palaniswami was dead against the entry of the former interim general secretary, senior leaders, and former ministers, D. Jayakumar and CVe Shanmugham openly came out against V.K. Sasikala.

Dr. R. Padmanabhan, Director, Socio-Economic Development Foundation, a think tank based out of Madurai in South Tamil Nadu while speaking to IANS, said, “AIADMK politics is at a crucial juncture and the party has lost in its bastions of South Tamil Nadu and in Western Tamil Nadu. Both the leaders Panneerselvam and Palaniswami have egg on their faces as party candidates in their own home wards lost. While the reentry of V.K. Sasikala is almost a certainty as the powerful Thevar community has thrown its weight behind her, it is to be seen how the Edappadi faction will take it. Whether they assimilate and move ahead or whether they raise the banner of revolt will depend heavily on the future growth curve of the party.”

Sasikala, even though is not tested politically, has learned the tricks of the trade being a close aide of one of the sharpest political minds of Tamil Nadu, the late Chief Minister, J. Jayalalithaa. The acquaintance she had with Jayalalithaa has helped her have a direct connection with all the party grassroots cadre and lower level functionaries and this is a major advantage of her along with the Thevar community backing.

The former interim general secretary is maintaining an office at her T. Nagar residence and communicating with the lower-level party functionaries.

Dr. Umamaheswari, political analyst and Professor of a Chennai college, while speaking to IANS, said, “The charisma and leadership qualities of both OPS and EPS is at the lowest ebb after back-to-back electoral drubbing. Sasikala coming back to the party fold does not mean that everything will change overnight but the dual leadership of AIADMK has failed miserably and it needs a make-over. It could be Sasikala or someone else but her entry is imminent and the future politics of AIADMK will revolve around her.”

With the AIADMK in crossroads following the electoral drubbing and two factions close to the two most powerful leaders pulling at each other, it has to be seen whether the party can move ahead in the present manner or whether the party requires someone like Sasikala at the helm of affairs. (IANS)

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