Opposite leaves
THE WEEK|October 04, 2020
Opposite leaves
Infighting, Sasikala’s return and uncertainty over its ally worsen the leadership crisis in the AIADMK
LAKSHMI SUBRAMANIAN

Nearly four years after her death, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is still struggling to fill the void left behind by former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa. The party, which will turn 49 in October, is plagued by a leadership crisis that is deepening by the day.

On September 16, as the assembly proceedings came to an end, Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, as party coordinator, wanted to call a meeting of all AIADMK MLAs and senior leaders at the party office. But Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, as joint coordinator, refused to give consent. The tilt in the power equation within the party was for all to see. When the two factions headed by Panneerselvam and Palaniswami came together—brokered by the BJP, following Jayalalithaa’s death—the division of power was clear: Panneerselvam would control the party, and Palaniswami would head the government.

On September 17, Panneerselvam, also known as OPS, decided to convene an emergency meeting of party executives at the party office. In a first for the AIADMK, the notice was tweeted. Ahead of the meeting on September 18, there was much sloganeering at the headquarters—OPS supporters hailed him as “future CM” whereas Palaniswami’s aides called him the “permanent CM”. The three-hour long meeting, convened to broker a truce between the two, turned combative and ended inconclusively.

The clash between the two factions is not new though. Soon after the merger in 2017, senior party leader V. Maitreyan posted on Facebook: “The factions have merged. Months pass by, but what about the hearts?” Even though there was a clear distinction of power between the two leaders, Palaniswami, aka EPS, started getting more support within the party. As a senior AIADMK leader said, “OPS decided to assert himself and take control of the party, but EPS was always accommodative of everyone.” Also, the 11-member steering committee, which was to be constituted during the merger, was never formed. Sources said that OPS had trouble recommending his aides for party posts as every decision required the joint coordinator’s consent.

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October 04, 2020