In the never ending saga that is Tamil Nadu politics, the ruling AIADMK continues to its shape shifting. The latest episode involved the ouster of former close aide to the late J Jayalalitha; V Sasikala.
The Hindu editorial commented on the ouster of Sasikala –
“Whether the faction led by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami adopted this course out of political necessity or out of a genuine desire to keep Sasikala out of the party’s affairs is now immaterial: the break with the Sasikala family is real”.
“The newly evolved collective leadership in the party, with Mr. Panneerselvam as the coordinator and Mr. Palaniswami as the co-coordinator, and the abolition of the powerful post of general secretary, will be resistant to the influence of Sasikala and her nephew T.T.V. Dhinakaran”.
Earlier in the week, the AIADMK general council passed a resolution that would essentially consolidate the position of Chief Minister E K Palaniswami and O Pannerselvam in the party and dismissing Sasikala from all her posts; making Jayalalitha the permanent General Secretary. As it stands, it seems like Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dinakaran are the outsiders looking in.
TK Arun, in a column for The Economic Times, writes on the installment of the former Chief Minister as the party’s permanent secretary and the state of the AIADMK in general –
“Devotion to departed Amma, of course, moved her followers to install her as their eternal leader, and those who see a squabble for power among her followers as the reason for Jayalalithaa’s belated posthumous elevation just do not appreciate how grief can numb the bereaved into prolonged lethargy in the matter of identifying rightful homage”.
“Where all this leaves the AIADMK is less important for those who are not either O Panneerselvam or Edappady K Palaniswami, former and current chief minister, respectively, than where all this leaves Tamil Nadu, home to one of India’s most dynamic manufacturing ecosystems, now listless and adrift as no one knows who is in charge and who can take a final decision on anything”.
“The governor must put an end to the charade that has become Tamil Nadu politics. All he needs to do is to summon the Tamil Nadu assembly and allow the Opposition to move a no-confidence motion”.
Nine months after the death of their beloved leader, a smooth transition within the AIADMK into some form of steady leadership wasn’t necessarily a sure bet, but given they are the ruling party, it was imperative. Instead, the party, which certainly had some fault lines as Jayalalitha was in hospital, broke into factions after her death, each jostling for control. In the mean time, its then secretary was sent to jail and people looked for an opening.
The Indian Express editorial stated that the factions within the party joining hands is a radical step –
“The move to entrust a committee with the general secretary’s powers is a radical step for the AIADMK. Sasikala looked destined to follow the same model until OPS mounted his dramatic revolt. Since the AIADMK legislators and functionaries lack the charisma and pan-state profile of MGR and Jayalalithaa, the party may benefit from projecting a collective leadership”.
“An immediate challenge for the party, however, is to ensure a majority in the assembly — the Opposition claims that the official AIADMK lacks the numbers”.
The rotating groups of faces that have occupied various posts within show a party that lacks leadership and vision. Within hours of Jayalalitha’s death, O Panneerselvam was sworn-in as the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, then resigning a couple of months later as Sasikala took charge as Panneerselvam remained as an interim.
Then came what could be seen as a scene from a movie; Panneerselvam meditating at the memorial of Jayalalitha, saying shortly after that “she called out to him” and that he went there to “search my conscience”. It was then war on Sasikala. The Hindustan Times editorial states that the general council meeting shows a precarious power balance –
“Tuesday’s meet will bring stability to the party — at least for the time being. This is because the TTV faction has rubbished the resolutions taken at the meet. The TTV faction is also exploring legal options to counter the EPS-OPS combine”.
“The creation of a post of an ‘Eternal General Secretary’ is an absurdity even by the often farcical standard of politics, especially Dravidian politics. But this should not be mistaken for sycophancy, displayed in abundance while she was alive. This reflects the reality that both OPS and EPS are using her legacy as crutches to support their political ambitions”.
The Times of India editorial stated that the instability within the AIADMK is not good for the state –
“In the midst of all this political uncertainty, governance has become the biggest casualty as survival has taken precedence. The state is going through a phase of economic stagnation and drought but these issues are getting nowhere near the sustained attention they deserve”.
“The principal opposition party DMK met the governor last week, claiming the government is in a minority and demanding an early floor test. Such a test is the only way to reliably discern whether the government enjoys the confidence of the house. It must be held at the earliest to end this period of flux and for governance to come back on the state government’s agenda”.
The Madras High Court, before the council meeting, dismissed an appeal from the Dhinakaran camp to halt the meeting. As someone who is insistent on forming the party on the ideals and image of Jayalalitha, he criticized the current administration for abandoning the ideals of the former CM; citing the NEET issue which she was strongly against.
In the midst of this drama, the party could give the opening the DMK needs to take advantage. A situation where MK Stalin and his party cadres quietly plot their next move while internal fights plague the AIADMK is a possibility. The BJP could also be looking at this with keen interest. R Kannan, a diplomat and biographer, in a column for The Hindustan Times writes the AIADMK could be the BJP’s Trojan horse –
“The post-Jayalalithaa AIADMK has evidently become the BJP’s Trojan horse. For all her faults, in 1988-89, the late leader kept the BJP leadership and the government on tenterhooks and even brought the BJP government down. More recently, despite all her legal difficulties she stood up to the Centre opposing many of its schemes.”
“In the BJP’s calculation — an AIADMK sans the Sasikala clan is a cleansed AIADMK, good for piggy backing on. But a post-Tihar Dinakaran spoilt their plans as he chose to fight back. He did not take on the BJP”.
“But what is most impressive is that while Dinakaran wishes to curry favor with the BJP he is unwilling to yield space to the BJP’s plans to remove his aunt and family from the political scene”.
The next big step is the floor test which the Dhinakaran faction seeks in the General Assembly; though as per the Madras High Court order, no such test will take place till September 20.
More columns by Varun Sukumar