After the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in December 2016, the AIADMK has essentially fractured into two. The chief of the party and close aide of the former Chief Minister,V Sasikala tried to get the Chief Ministership from Panneerselvam before her conviction in a corruption case. However, before her incarceration, Sasikala appointed Edapadi Palaniswami as (EPS) the Chief Minister and her nephew Dhinakaran as the party's number two.
The never ending saga has taken another turn, when O Panneerselvam (OPS), the leader of the rebel camp in the AIADMK dissolved the seven member committee he had set up to work out modalities for merger of the two rival factions within the party.
The State Secretary of the IT wing of the AIADMK tweeted saying those who are leaving the faction are doing so because they were being paid.— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) 11 June 2017
After the trust vote in the Tamil Nadu assembly in February, which was won by the faction led by E Palaniswami, what followed was chaos in the House with the DMK alleging that the trust vote was rigged. The DMK leader MK Stalin moved the High Court for a new trust vote and this demand was dismissed.
Whoever is moving now are being bought. For ex one or two IT wing members are going tomorrow, I have a proof that they are being bought https://t.co/i9C8XBAZ6q— Singai GRamachandran (@RamaAIADMK) 11 June 2017
An investigative report by Times Now found that money was paid to sway votes. The money was paid in the resort where the MLAs were kept by the Sasikala camp. The news outlet along with Moon TV conducted sting operations on two AIADMK MLAs.
reported in the Time of India, at a meeting organized in Thiruverkadu in Chennai's suburbs, Panneerselvam said, "Wherever we went, people say there is no need for merger. They are people of Tamil Nadu, particularly women, students, youth, people who are neutral, even the media."
In a June 9 piece for the Time of India, Julie Mariappan writes –
“In the precarious equilibrium brought about by Dhinakaran’s re-entry into the scene, EPS is happy with the status quo; OPS remains a passive onlooker. With a little help from the Centre, which would only be keen to put its foot down ahead of the presidential election, EPS and OPS can sweep the differences under the carpet and stay steady.”
The same piece goes on to state how E Palaniswami has been able to keep his ministers in line.
“On the political front, EPS has been able to keep his ministerial flock together. And that includes such TTV Dhinakaran soothsayers as health minister C Vijayabaskar and housing minister Udumalai K Radhakrishnan. This he achieved, say insiders, by his non-confrontational attitude.”
A report in OneIndia news stated that the tug of war in Tamil Nadu politics could become an all out ‘political drama’ during the time of the Presidential elections. With leaders from Edappadi Palanisamy camp like K T Rajendra Balaji declaring that there was nothing wrong in supporting the BJP, the camp seems to have already made up its mind.
Writing for the Huffington Post, G Pramod Kumar states how the BJP fits into the political drama –
“There's more and more muck coming out against their alleged thuggery during the Jaya rule, which incidentally also dents the latter's legacy, and a number of their illegally procured assets are being confiscated by the government based on the trial court order in the disproportionate assets case.”
“The BJP is looking to exploit the vacuum created by Jaya's absence, and matinee idol and forever-political-debutant Rajinikanth seems to be preparing the path for them. For the BJP, a weak and splintered AIADMK is necessary for it to find its foot in the door. If the factions of the AIADMK come together, it would squeeze out the BJP from whatever little space it has gained in the last few months.”
In a piece for Outlook, G.C. Shekhar writes about the scramble to the top in post Jayalalitha Tamil Nadu –
“The political churn witnessed by Tamil Nadu since Jayalalitha’s death in December 2016 has now thrown up a new political offering—a third faction of the AIADMK led by Dhinakaran, deputy general secretary and Sasikala’s nephew. Dhinakaran wants to take complete control of the party machinery and manage the government through remote control.”
“We have over a month to set our house in order,” says a senior minister. “Since the DMK is with the Opposition, no faction of the AIADMK can afford to be seen voting on their side. At best, Dhinakaran’s MLAs and MPs may abstain, which would be to the BJP’s advantage.”
In an interview to the Tamil newspaper Vikatan, Thanga Tamizhselvan, a staunch supporter of Dhinakaran said, “I am with Dhinakaran right from the beginning and he has the support of 40 MLAs. We are internally discussing about the way forward but at the same time it does not amount to any confusion in the party.”
In an interview to the same newspaper, a party member Madhusudanan of OPS faction said, “The war between Edappadi Palanisamy and Dhinakaran is a drama. They are staging this drama to weaken our faction. It is a well laid out plan and this drama is an outcome of that. But they fail to realize about the reality that they will themselves get eliminated in this process.”
O Panneerselvams decision on the merger panel generated mixed responses. The Hindu contacted two cabinet ministers Electricity Minister P. Thangamani and Law Minister C.Ve. Shanmugam claimed they were unaware of the situation.
The editor of the Thuglak, S. Gurumurthy was optimistic. According to a report in The Hindu, he said –
“It only shows that the committee model has failed. It was a flawed idea to constitute committees with seven members on each side to hold talks with the other side. The talks should have been through well-meaning intermediaries. Both factions of the AIADMK are under compulsion to merge.”
During the meeting at Thiruverkadu, Panneerselvam declared that his party would continue the ‘dharma yudh’ saying, “the party is with us, cadres are with us, and so are the people.”
A report in the Time of India stated that Panneerselvam held a press conference at his residence in which he said, “MLAs in our group will be meeting at 9am on June 14. We will discuss issues, especially those in which people have been affected, and raise it in the assembly seeking an answer from the government. We will not fail in our responsibility to the people."
A week after TTV Dhinakaran made it clear that he will fight for his position in AIADMK, it is unclear where the party goes from here. Speaking to India Today, a minister named Jayakumar, a finance minister said, “We are in for a merger because that's what lakhs of cadres of the AIADMK want. We want a united party that can work together to carry forward Amma's legacy.”
More columns by Varun Sukumar