The 50th founding anniversary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) has begun on a very sombre note. After the party lost badly in the recently concluded rural local body elections in nine districts, raids on locations linked to several former ministers are rattling the party. So far, four former ministers have been subjected to raids on complaints of disproportionate assets cases.
With the party trying to stay united, the recent moves of V K Sasikala, the former aide of late chief minister J Jayalalitha (JJ) has further expanded the divide within the party. She visited the memorial of JJ on October 16, a day before the 50th anniversary of the foundation day of the party.
The organisational weakness of the AIADMK has come to the fore, with dual leadership and infighting despite winning seven assembly elections, the highest by any political party in the state.
On the other hand the alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has become a double edged knife for the AIADMK. In its usual style, the BJP is trying to capture the vacuum created by the slow reactions of the AIADMK.
RAIDS DASH AIADMK
On October 18, 43 locations linked to former health minister Dr C Vijayabaskar were raided by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) in a disproportionate assets case. Fourteen educational institutions run by the former minister’s family members were also raided on the day. Vijayabaskar is the fourth former minister of the AIADMK to face such action.
Earlier, former ministers, M R Vijayabaskar, S P Velumani, and K C Veeramani were raided on similar allegations after the DVAC registered FIRs.
The AIADMK leadership alleged that the raids were politically motivated by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government and exposed the apparent political vendetta of the ruling party. EPS and OPS, in a joint statement, went on to claim that the DMK was unable to digest the golden jubilee celebration of the AIADMK and had instigated the DVAC to raid AIADMK leaders.
In another significant action, vigilance officials on October 22 raided places belonging to a close aide of EPS, ‘Salem’ Elangovan, the chairman of Tamil Nadu State Apex Cooperative Bank, and his son E Praveen, the vice-chairman of an educational trust.
State Apex Cooperative Bank, and his son E Praveen, the vice-chairman of an educational trust.
Despite repeated statements condemning the raids, the AIADMK has failed to retain the confidence of cadres across the different levels of the party.
DUAL LEADERSHIP AND TROUBLES
The AIADMK general body resolved to scrap the post of general secretary after a truce between EPS and OPS in 2017. The bylaw of the party was changed to introduce the Coordinator and Joint Coordinator posts, now occupied by OPS and EPS, respectively. Sasikala was the interim general secretary then after which she was removed following her conviction in the disproportionate assets case.
Voices of dissent rose to accuse both EPS and OPS for the move. K C Palanisamy, a former AIADMK MP, has challenged the election commission’s decision to accept the scrapping of the general secretary post. Sasikala herself has challenged the resolution of the general body on abolishing the post.
“In the response to the election commission of India, the AIADMK has claimed that the set up of coordinator and joint coordinator has been existing from 1976, which implies even late leaders M G Ramachandran (MGR) and JJ (J Jayalalithaa) were not general secretaries,” said Palaniswamy.
The Madras High Court ruled in favour of changes made to the bylaws, bringing a huge relief to the party. But the legal struggles could continue with Sasikala claiming herself to be the general secretary of the AIADMK.
PARTY DIVIDED OVER SASIKALA’S REENTRY
When Sasikala visited Jayalalithaa’s memorial after four years, she claimed herself to be the general secretary of the party and called on the members to put up a united face. She unveiled a plaque in Ramavaram, the MGR memorial on the golden jubilee celebration, which designated her as the party’s general secretary.
The party soon threatened legal action, but she showed no signs of withdrawal and announced a state-wide tour starting October 27 to strengthen the party.
OPS, the coordinator of the party soon announced that the party high command will decide on inducting Sasikala back into the party. However, D Jayakumar, former cabinet minister, rejected any such possibility.
He went on to refer to the resolution passed to dismiss Sasikala from the party which was signed by OPS as well. Being the coordinator of the party, OPS has shown some inclination towards inducting Sasikala back, but has been countered by other leaders.
The difference in opinions may soon escalate, as the factional feud between EPS and OPS seems to have no end. The electoral defeat in the rural local body polls in nine districts has dented the party badly, though the party accused DMK of manipulations.
BJP SNIFFING A CHANCE
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to enjoy the feud within the AIADMK and has been trying to project itself as the opposition in the state. With the AIADMK facing their own problems to keep the flock together, it has failed to play the role of a constructive opposition in the state.
The BJP went on a recruitment spree ahead of the assembly elections and managed to rope in a few leaders to its fold from both DMK and AIADMK. In fact, the floor leader of the party in the assembly is a former AIADMK minister. The BJP continues to put more focus on the western districts.
After holding a couple of yatras in different parts of the state, the BJP held several protests as well, but not on issues of the people. The party demanded the opening of temples on weekends and the traditional Navarathri procession from Kanyakumari to Trivandrum with the full participation of devotees.
The BJP has been making some noise on the ground, claiming to protect the rights of the Hindus by invoking religious polarisation, even as the diesel price crossed Rs 100 for the first time in the state and an LPG cylinder costing more than Rs 900.
The BJP is expecting to use a weakened AIADMK for its growth while the developments within the AIADMK remain inconclusive as the party enters its golden jubilee year.