‘Military style control’ need to be maintained. These were words in the announcement issued by ADMK’s Coordinator and Joint Coordinator Edappadi Palanisamy and O.Panneerselvam which intended to end the controversy surrounding who is the CM candidate for the impending polls in ADMK.
The fissures inside the party came to the fore after Minister Sellur Raju voiced his opinion in the press that ‘MLAs will elect who is the CM for 2021’. Dairy Development Minister Rajendran Balaji was quick to turn this remark into a controversy. In his official account, the Minister tweeted saying “Edappadi will be always be the Chief Minister. He added, “ we will set the target and meet on the field, Edappadi will be at the forefront, we will form a team and we will win, 2021 is ours”
These two remarks set tongues wagging and most of the Ministers started opining about ADMK’s CM candidate. With elections in Tamil Nadu round the corner, the remarks of these Ministers could not be brushed aside. Further the fact that VK. Sasikala, who is incarcerated in a corruption case is likely to come out by the beginning of next year added to the confusion.
Though ‘Dharma Yudham’ fame O.Panneerselvam merged his faction with EPS and declared truce, all is not well within ADMK. Tensions continued to simmer inside the party though it was not palpable.
Both EPS and OPS continued to play down the controversy created by the Ministers. However developments in the two camps precipitated the problem.
Mithun, son of CM Edappadi Palanisamy, has become very active in the past months. Being the CM’s son, he naturally commands certain clout and has started interfering in party affairs say sources inside the party. Mithun’s new found aggressiveness is attributed to ADMK’s election strategist Sunil Kanugolu. Sunil Kanugolu was a former consultant in McKinsey and was a key player in 2014 BJP election campaign.
Sunil was roped in by Edappadi Palanisamy personally to handle the party’s strategy for 2021 polls. Sources say, Sunil was recruited for ADMK by Edappadi Palanisamy himself and not in consultation with any of the party’s senior leaders.
A source close to Sunil had this to say, “Sunil’s job is cut out clearly. He will strategize and present his report. It is the party leaders who will take decisions. It is unfair to say, Sunil is calling the shots.”
Though Sunil is handling ADMK’s strategies, including social media , OPS runs his own IT wing.
A few facebook pages are run exclusively for OPS, his elder son OP Ravindranath and his younger son OP Jayapradeep. These pages, and hundreds of twitter handles are run separately by O.Panneerselvam. One of the pages promoting OP Jayapradeep is called “O.P.Jaya Pradeep Devotees”
Separate social media teams for EPS and OPS alone proves that the wedge between the two camps are deeper than it appears.
Following the remarks of the Ministers creating doubts about the CM candidate, Mithun got into action and activated EPS loyalists to organise functions and speak to the effect that EPS is the CM candidate.
One such event was organised in Tirunelveli by ADMK’s State Organising Secretary Sudha Paramasivam. This event was specifically organised to flex muscles and was engineered by Edappadi Palanisamy’s son Mithun. After the event, Sudha Paramasivam had this to say “After the demise of Amma, the whole country wondered whether this government will continue. But, Edappadi Palanisamy continued the government effectively much to the surprise of many. Even Opposition Leader MK.Stalin had appreciated EPS. It is the wish of every ADMK cadre to see EPS as CM again”
Though this event did not get much attention, OPS camp was keenly watching the developments. Jayapradheep, younger son of OPS, who is aspiring to contest on an ADMK ticket in Bodi constituency was quick to act. He asked his supporters to display posters in Theni asserting that ‘OPS is the CM candidate’.
On 15th August morning, when the state was gearing up for Independence Day celebrations, Theni people saw posters across the district with OPS smiling prominently declaring “2021 OPS FOR CM”. Edappadi Palanisamy understood that things have gone out of hand. Immediately after completing the Independence Day parade, EPS decided to put a full stop to the controversy. Being a shrewd politician he understood allowing the controversy to continue will weaken his position.
Following marathon meetings with Ministers and Deputy CM, a temporary truce was declared.
A Delhi based journalist who is keenly observing the developments said, “This is one issue in the AIADMK that will never get resolved. For all practical and technical purposes O Pannerselvam is the Chief of AIADMK, but his wings have been clipped by Edappadi Palaniswamy.
OPS remains the Chief of the party for namesake and it’s an open secret that OPS can’t even take a simple decision on his own and execute it, be it in the Government or within the AIADMK.
OPS downfall began the day he started taking RSS ideologue Gurumurthy’s advise to revolt against VK Sasikala. If he had waited for 10-15 days, probably OPS would have been the Chief Minister once again after the disproportionate assets case judgement in the Supreme Court.
The Dharmayudham he launched with the help of BJP flopped, he levelled corruption charges against the same government which he is part of now, he voted against the ‘Amma’ Government, he got the AIADMK two leaves symbol blocked, he fielded his candidate in Jaya’s constituency RK Nagar, his supporters carried a replica of Jaya’s coffin to seek votes. While he worked against his own party he was fully backed by the BJP & It’s allies CBI, IT and ED.
He failed at every move he made, pushed to a corner and a disgraced OPS was ‘ordered’ by BJP high command to join hands with EPS. When that happened he was already a spent force and EPS clearly consolidated his position in the government and the party.
EPS knew on what terms OPS was included in the party and kept him under check at every step. He was sidelined in the Government and the party so much, that OPS often complained in his close circles that he is being humiliated. Despite being a senior politician and that too a seasoned one, OPS was insulted every single day by EPS but he never uttered a word in public.
Now it appears that OPS is becoming restless and EPS’s consolidation of power within the party is making him feel nervous and insecure. The tweet by TN Minister Rajendra Bhalaji seems to have touched a raw nerve. OPS realises that it’s an internal coup, but he is helpless.
Small incidents put together have forced OPS to throw a fit and this is just the beginning. The cat is out of the bag and in the run up to 2021 elections, we will see many such Ministerial delegations visiting EPS and OPS residences in an attempt to douse the flames.”
The truce declared by both the OPS and EPS camp is purely cosmetic for public consumption. Huge trouble is brewing inside ADMK.
Interesting days are ahead.