The massive drubbing in the urban local body elections has sparked off discussions on reinstating estranged leader V K Sasikala back in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).
But the two camps in the party led by O Panner Selvam (OPS) and Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) still remain divided over the issue. OPS has hinted at his willingness on multiple instances regarding the re-entry of Sasikala while EPS has registered his staunch opposition.
The district unit in Theni, the hometown and stronghold of OPS, was among the first to pass a resolution seeking the reinstatement of Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran. AIADMK acted swiftly by suspending those who sought the return of Sasikala, including O P Raja, younger brother of OPS.
With the twin leadership of OPS and EPS failing to either inspire party cadres or win elections since 2019, the call for unification could gather momentum.
In the recently concluded urban local body polls, the AIADMK suffered a massive setback, while the Dhinakaran-led Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) managed to gain in certain pockets and damaged the prospects of AIADMK.
LOUDER NOISE FOR REINSTATEMENT
The first call to bring back Sasikala came from Theni. The younger brother of OPS and chairman of Madurai district Aavin Cooperative Society, O P Raja took the lead and ensured the district unit passed a resolution seeking the reinduction of Sasikala and Dhinakaran.
The district leadership met OPS in person and submitted the resolution. Theni district secretary Syed Khan demanded the party leadership to bring back Sasikala as the party cannot survive repeated electoral setbacks. “The party suffered a split when M G Ramachandran (MGR) passed away and suffered a defeat in the 1989 elections. Similar situation is prevailing now and we want the party to get united,” he said.
O P Raja even met Sasikala in Thoothukudi on March 5, two days after the resolution was passed on her reinduction into the party. The party leadership soon expelled O P Raja and a few other office bearers for anti-party activities.
During a press meet on March 8, OPS shunned questions on Sasikala’s comeback, while EPS remained silent during this phase. Apart from the joint official statements on suspending dissenting leaders, both EPS and OPS have maintained silence on Sasikala’s comeback.
'EPS AND OPS IN CATCH 22 SITUATION'
This is not the first time that the demand for the return of Sasikala and Dhinakaran has made waves within the AIADMK. The party’s defeat in the 2019 general elections was followed by similar demands, but the noise did not sustain for long.
The massive drubbing in the urban local body has again sparked the debate within the AIADMK. Tharasu’ Shyam, a senior journalist ‘ opined that the AIADMK is at a crossroads at this juncture.
“EPS is very strong on his anti-Sasikala stand, while OPS has been inconsistent over time. But, OPS is in need of Sasikala’s reentry to retain the vote bank of the Mukkulathor community. Both, EPS and OPS are not ready to compromise on their respective positions,” he said.
The absence of two towering Dravidian leaders like M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalitha has changed the political landscape of the state. “The AIADMK is left with no option but to take forward their political struggle against the policies of the DMK government. But, EPS seems reluctant to follow such a path. Being a senior leader, EPS is taking a wait and watch approach, which may not be suitable in the longer run,” Shyam said.
Since the ‘two leaves’ symbol of AIADMK is legally assigned to the twin leadership of EPS and OPS, a split in the party will result in the freezing of the symbol, a crucial factor in Tamil Nadu’s political space.
“Both EPS and OPS are in a catch-22 situation now. EPS and OPS cannot orchestrate a split, only a united and strengthened AIADMK can sustain their political future,” Shyam opined.
‘SASIKALA’S POSITION WEAKENING’
Though expelled from the AIADMK in 2017 and after announcing a sudden retirement from politics prior to 2021, Sasikala claims herself to be the general secretary of AIADMK. She has approached the court to quash the AIADMK leadership’s decision to expel her.
“With all the developments within the AIADMK, Sasikala’s position is continuously getting weakened. Since she is not leading a party and political support continues to reduce compared to the influence she wielded once she was out of jail,” Shyam said.
Dhinakaran started AMMK and announced that Sasikala will be general secretary, but later he donned the role himself. “Sasikala is in political isolation now. She cannot claim to be the leader of AMMK and AIADMK is divided over her reentry. A political battle cannot be won in the court, but only with the support of the people. I have never seen such a situation in Tamil Nadu politics in the last 40 years,” Shyam said.