The differences within the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) are far from settled given the major tussle between Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) and O. Panneer Selvam (OPS). However with V.K. Sasikala (VKS), the former leader of the party, making calls to party leaders and cadre, the chasm has only widened.
VKS' recorded conversations with the cadres were recently made public, much to the embarrassment of the AIADMK leadership. In the conversations she promised to make a comeback and set things right in the party. Though the AIADMK leadership has brushed aside possibilities of her return, the party expelled 17 individuals who were revealed to have had a conversation with her.
The differences within the AIADMK were never a secret, with the delay in electing the legislature party office bearers taking time, signalling a never-ending fight for power within.
‘WILL MAKE A COMEBACK SOON’
After being released from Bengaluru prison, VKS was accorded a rousing reception on January 27, 2021 from the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border till Chennai. She shocked the political arena by announcing her temporary withdrawal from politics in March. While the AIADMK was relieved, Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) leaders were taken aback by the announcement.
She has now been calling up party leaders in the past two weeks, including former ministers, peoples representatives and members. The calls were made public, much to the embarrassment of the AIADMK leadership.
“I will guide the party like Amma (referring to former chief minister J.Jayalalithaa) did”, she was heard saying during a conversation.
While sources close to VKS termed the move a part of a larger plan, the AIADMK leadership has rejected any such possibilities. The AIADMK has taken swift action against those who spoke to VKS by dismissing them from the party.
A FORCE TO RECKON WITH?
VKS' influence seems to have diminished since her untimely withdrawal from politics in March 2021. The individuals she has been speaking to are dissatisfied with the EPS-OPS duo and most were already sidelined from the party.
Political analyst Jeeva Sagapthan shared a similar view. “No sitting members of the assembly or frontline leaders will join Sasikala given her present situation. She has to project herself as an alternative to EPS or OPS to gain the confidence of the cadres, who are disillusioned with the party getting closer to the BJP,” he said.
Both VKS and T.T.V. Dhinakaran have been silent on issues faced by the people, including the National Education Policy (NEP), National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and the rising prices of petrol and diesel.
“How do you get the attention of the people in politics? You have to talk about the raging issues in society. Instead, Sasikala is making this a personal clash between EPS and herself. This will not help her in getting any political mileage,” Sagapthan added.
‘EPS GAINS UPPER HAND’
The party had a tough time in selecting leaders of the legislature party after the defeat in the assembly elections. Both EPS and OPS were eyeing the Leader of Opposition (LoP) position, but EPS won the battle of sorts. He also ensured that his staunch loyalist and former minister S.P. Velumani was elected as the chief whip.
Though OPS is the coordinator of the party with EPS as his deputy, since the elections EPS seems to have gained the upper hand. An interview of V. Pugazhendi, former spokesperson and now dismissed from the party, explained the EPS' hold within the party.
“AIADMK's loss has come as a blessing for EPS. His influence has been strengthened with the victory of the party in the western region. OPS has lost his relevance in the south, which had been a stronghold for the AIADMk for long," said Sagapthan.
The alliance with the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and the 10.5% reservation for Vanniyars led to the AIADMK losing ground in the south which has a very high number of people from the Mukkulathor community population. Incidentally, both VKS and OPS belong to different sub-categories of the community.
“EPS wants to be the undisputed leader of the AIADMK while OPS seems to rely more on the BJP for his personal gains. He is expecting a ministerial berth for his son, who is the MP from Theni," said Sagapthan, who mentioned that Sasikala’s course of action would be to gain more visilbility by taking on the duo.
‘BJP HAPPY WITH DEVELOPMENTS’
The BJP, which won four seats in the assembly elections, wants to maintain its alliance with the AIADMK and PMK. The party seems to have its eye on the Gounder-Vanniyar vote base in the west and northern regions of Tamil Nadu.
“The AIADMK has established itself as a strong force in the west; the BJP won two seats from the region. The BJP is trying its own social engineering by targeting several caste groups as well. The AIADMK-BJP-PMK alliance is what the BJP seems to favour in the longer run," said Sagapthan.
Commenting on VKS' stance given the situation, he said that she has to "oppose the DMK and BJP to create an identity. The AIADMK will oppose the DMK, but will remain silent on the BJP’s policies. Sasikala has to step in and take the lead or she will become irrelevant in the political arena very quickly”.