Worried about their survival and fearing backstabbing by each other amid the dissent in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), O Panneerselvam (OPS) and Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) have announced organisational polls to ensure their positions.
The dual leadership ensured that the by-laws are amended in their favour at a recent party meeting. Elections to the posts of coordinator and the joint coordinator, held by OPS and EPS, respectively, will be held on December 8 with the general council members having the right of a lone vote to elect both.
Political observers have pointed out the simmering discontent and the lack of trust among the two leaders, leading to the weird logic of casting one vote for the two crucial party posts. Both EPS and OPS seem united in silencing dissenters, particularly those who have spoken against the party’s association and leniency to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Former minister Anwar Rajah, a prominent face of the minority community, has been dismissed for criticising the leadership for its BJP ties. Estranged leader VK Sasikala, the former aide of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa, still claims to be the general secretary with frequent press releases on her willingness to save the party from “vested interests”.
DUAL LEADERSHIP SET TO CONTINUE
Following the turmoil triggered by the death of Jayalalitha, the revolt by OPS and the ouster of Sasikala, the party adopted the dual leadership formula. EPS and OPS reached a compromise after throwing out Sasikala but the bonding was only temporary.
From vying to be the chief ministerial candidate before the elections and the leader of Opposition later, both EPS and OPS continue to disagree but remain united for each other’s survival.
Senthilvel, a political observer, pointed out the legal implications and the case file by OPS on the claim for the AIADMK’s ‘two leaves’ symbol. “EPS and OPS rely on each other purely for personal and political compulsions. They have decided to continue with the dual leadership but with reservations”, he told Newsclick.
The by-laws of the party have been changed to enable the general council members to elect the coordinator and joint coordinator of the party with a single vote. “The post of general secretary has been scrapped. The by-laws have been changed to favour OPS and EPS despite the legal battle by Sasikala on her claim to be the general secretary,” Senthil added.
Commenting on the provision for a single vote for the two posts, Senthil said that such a move clearly “exposes the lack of trust” among the two leaders. “The provision ensures both EPS and OPS will be re-elected, and the possibility of any competition despite the severe discontent among the two groups is ruled out. I have never heard about the system of ‘one vote for two posts’ in any political party.”
UNWAVERING SUPPORT TO BJP
While the general conception of the AIADMK conceding to BJP pressure is increasing, the party seems to be least bothered about the resulting disintegration. When the executive committee meeting was in session, a former MLA and a member of the 11-member governing council joined the BJP.
“The BJP, like in many other states, is trying to grow at the expense of another party. The AIADMK and the dual leadership seem to be less concerned. EPS and OPS didn’t utter a single word on the BJP accommodating its leaders despite being a sincere ally,” Senthil said.
The AIADMK supported the introduction of the three farm laws and went on to hail the BJP government when they were withdrawn. The lack of coordination in the AIADMK was evident when the Triple Talaq bill was introduced with the party supporting it in the Lok Sabha while opposing the same in the Rajya Sabha.
“The very existence of the AIADMK is under threat now thanks to the infighting between EPS and OPS. Both of them want to cling on to their positions but are not ready to speak against the BJP,” Senthil said.
DOUBLE STANDARD ON DISSENTERS
There have been voices of dissent within the party ever since the alliance continued for the 2021 Assembly elections after the drubbing of the AIADMK-BJP in the 2019 general elections.
Former minister CV Shanmugam had said during a meeting in July that the party lost the Assembly elections only because of its alliance with the BJP. Another former minister Anwar Rajah, a vocal critic of the party’s alliance with the BJP and a supporter of Sasikala, was sacked a day before the executive meeting.
“The leaders did not want any dissenting voices at the executive committee meeting. The question of why the AIADMK sacked Anwar Rajah and didn’t act against Shanmugam underlines the dedication to the BJP on dealing with minorities,” Senthil said.