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Tamil Nadu: Will the AIADMK Win a Third Term, With EPS as CM Candidate?

Neelambaran A |
Having been in power since 2011, the party is facing strong anti-incumbency. Its second tenure from 2016 has been marred with several controversies, with the party yielding to the pressure of the BJP on many occasions.

The residences of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) and his deputy, O. Panneer Selvam (OPS), were bustling with successive meetings till early morning on October 7. The ministers and senior leaders of the party, who were shuttling between the residences of the two leaders, finally managed to breathe easy after an agreement was reached about the persistent issues within the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

The announcement of the chief ministerial candidate came a little later, and as expected, EPS was chosen to lead the party for the 2021 polls in the state. OPS, on the other hand, will have control of the party with a steering committee being formed three years after the demand was raised for it. 

In the midst of all the melee, real issues concerning the people were put to rest. The increasing cases of COVID-19 in Chennai, the rural economy taking a beating owing to the unplanned lockdown and the struggle against the Farm Bills which are being labelled “anti-farmer” lost the limelight they deserved. 

Issue Far from Settled’

With the announcement of a CM candidate and the 11 member steering committee, internal issues have been put to bed, at least for now. The warring factions have agreed on the arrangement of leading the government – in the event of winning the next election –  to one group, and on party control to the other. 

With strong anti-incumbency against the party, the two factions are left with no option but to put up a united front in the upcoming elections. No party has won three successive mandates in Tamil Nadu since 1984, when late CM M.G. Ramachandran achieved the feat.

The internal conflict may further escalate in the build up to the next elections on issues including candidate selection. Each faction will insist on selecting a candidate of their choice in order to ensure an upper hand in the future. 

K. Balakrishnan, state secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said: “The AIADMK is a sinking ship. It does not matter who is the captain.” 

Role of Steering Committee Questionable

OPS has managed to succeed, with his demand for the formation of the steering committee going through. He insisted on the committee when the two factions merged after the reported intervention of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue S.Gurumurthy in 2017, with the blessings of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership. OPS met Prime Minister Narendra Modi prior to the merger, raising questions over the interest of the BJP in the AIADMK’s feud. 

The role of the steering committee itself is itself in question now, given the power of the general body of the AIADMK. In a TV debate, noted journalist Shyam said: “The general body is the highest decision-making body of the AIADMK. The party rules were modified to entrust the power of general secretary to the Coordinator (OPS) and Joint Coordinator (EPS) after the merger in 2017. Now the steering committee is left with little or no role as the general body can only sanction any power to the committee”. 

Six sitting ministers and five other leaders have made it to the steering committee. It has no women or Muslim representatives. Many senior leaders have been left out, but the party has managed to strike a balance between the regional and community representation. 

Also Read –  TN: With One Year Left in Power, AIADMK Faces the Heat of Repeated Failures

Fighting Anti-Incumbency a Challenge

The never-before-seen urgency of the party in announcing a CM candidate has left many issues in its wake. The party has been so busy, it is yet to issue a comment on Hathras. Other issues in the state have also taken a backseat.

Having been in power since 2011, the party is facing strong anti-incumbency. Its second tenure from 2016 has been marred with several controversies, with the party yielding to the pressure of the BJP on many occasions. The death of J.Jayalalithaa was the most talked about, into which OPS demanded an inquiry. There’s not much to be written about it after he patched up with the EPS faction and became the deputy CM.

The AIADMK has been turning a blind eye to the BJP-led Centre’s controversial moves on many occasions in the Rajya Sabha, which has invited the wrath of many. Its support to the Farrm Bills, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Register of Citizens, National Population Register, the inability to scrap National Eligibility cum Entrance Exam, among others, has dented its acceptability.  

As a result, its chances of a third term seem bleak, and the recent in-fighting has further dented its hope at least for now. The impending return of V.K. Sasikala, the aide of former CM J. Jayalalithaa, in January 2021, and the influence of T.T.V. Dhinakaran, now leading the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, could add another twist to the elections. Even if the CM candidate is announced tomorrow, further twists cannot be ruled out. However, victory in May 2021 remains an uphill task for the AIADMK

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