Though all eyes were glued to television screens on Wednesday morning on the impending announcement of the Chief Minister candidate of ADMK, it ended up as a timid affair without much success to the warring ADMK heavy weight O.Panneerselvam. OPS overestimated his strength and when he realized this, it was too late.
As detailed in this column here and here CM Edappadi Palanisamy has consolidated his position inside the party long back. It is true Edappadi Palanisamy is neither MGR nor Jayalalitha. Being a smart operator, EPS maneuvered his position deftly inside the party and ensured OPS is left with a few loyalists.
Edappadi Palanisamy was always a canny politician. To understand how politically shrewd EPS is, we should know how he was chosen among the hundreds of MLAs in Koovathur to head the state by a family which was tasting power from 1991.
When Jayalalitha was alive, like all ADMK politicians, EPS too had been given the task of safe-keeping a portion of money on behalf of Jayalalitha. When all others would return the exact amount that was given, EPS will sell his properties and return the money with more than 15% interest. When Jayalalitha wondered how he pulled this off, EPS replied that he had found a safe investment option. Jayalalitha’s trust on him kept on increasing.
Following the commencement of Dharma Yudham, MLAs loyal to Sasikala clan closeted in a Koovathur resort. Their first option for the CM post was ADMK veteran KA.Sengottaiyan. They were finalizing the ministerial berths. At that time, OPS’s dharma yudham was gaining momentum and there was overwhelming support for OPS among the public. Slowly a few MLAs were dilly dallying whether to switch over to OPS camp as they understood that OPS has the backing of BJP.
A slow whispering campaign was initiated by ADMK leaders Dalavai Sundaram, Ministers SP Velumani and C.Ve.Shanmugam among MLAs and they started demanding money for remaining loyal to Sasikala family. The grievance of MLAs was conveyed and Sasikala and TTV Dinakaran and they asked KA Sengottaiyan how quickly he can deliver money to MLAs. Sengottaiyan sought a week’s time after he was made CM. This was communicated to the MLAs.
While this was going on, Velumani, Thangamani and CVe.Shanmugam propped up EPS to ensure he can deliver money to the MLAs in an hour’s notice. Being the Minister for PWD and Highways, it was not a tough task for Edappadi to ensure money is delivered. He established contacts with all PWD and Highway contractors and asked them to get the money ready to be delivered as and when instructions are issued.
After Sengottaiyan promised to deliver the money in a week’s time, the MLAs were again instigated by Velumani and Thangamani. The MLAs become restless again and a few threatened to jump over to OPS camp which was gaining momentum by the hour. Sasikala, TTV Dinakaran and Dalavai Sundaram again discussed the development. At this point of time, Dalavai Sundaram mooted the name of Edappadi Palanisamy. When EPS was asked how quickly he can deliver the money, he promised to deliver money to all MLAs family in two hours’ notice. Bereft of options to save the government from the BJP’s onslaught, Sasikala chose Edappadi Palanisamy. That’s how a shrewd operator he is.
Many, including this author, did not expect Edappadi Palanisamy to complete his full term. However, EPS proved be a slick operator and managed to sail till now.
Even since OPS started instigating the ‘CM candidate’ issue, EPS knew he has to operate very carefully to win this major hurdle ahead of elections. He knew, many of OPS supporters are disgruntled with him and he even doesn’t command the total support of his community. He established contacts with many of OPS’s disgruntled supporters and offered a helping hand. They were also informed that OPS, who started the Dharma Yudham against Sasikala family is already in touch with that camp. This made them furious.
Most of the leaders in ADMK do not like the Sasikala family. Sasikala family commanded respect in ADMK only because Sasikala had the eyes and ears of Jayalalitha. They all know that the expulsion of Sasikala clan from ADMK in late 1996 and December 2011 continued for just a few months. They also know that ADMK leaders who were critical of the Sasikala clan during the expulsion period saw the end of their political career.
Such being the case, OPS’s overtures to Sasikala family was not received well within the ADMK. EPS used this as a trump card to woo many of OPS supporters into his fold. Tiltiong of scales in favour of EPS was very evident during the 28th Executive Committee meet. Except JCD Prabakar, none who spoke in the EC meet were explicit in their support for OPS.
So when the date 7th October was announced to decide the CM candidate, EPS was extremely confident. However, OPS trusted his Delhi contacts and assumed BJP will come to his aid. All his attempts to establish contacts with BJP high command failed. But OPS was not the one to give up easily.
He drived a tough bargain. He refused to relent till the early morning of 7th October. It was the one to one phone call made by EPS to O.Panneerselvam, that swung the odds. EPS knows the weakness of OPS – his family. There were two demands by OPS with regard to his family. One, give consent to make his elder son OP Ravindranath as central minister. Two, give an ADMK ticket for his younger son Jayapradheep. Edappadi Palanisamy, again played his cards cleverly.
EPS gave his consent for making OP Ravindranath a central Minister, but refused to accede to OPS’s second demand. EPS has reportedly said, giving a ticket to two family members may not be acceptable to even party men. Sources say, EPS while talking to OPS has said, he is ready to give a letter even to BJP National President JP Nadda giving his consent to make Ravindranath a central minister. However, he cautioned OPS not to reveal this fact, as MPs Vaithiyalingam, Thambidurai and KP Munusamy may be up in arms. Compared to these ADMK veterans, OP.Ravindranath is a novice to politics. They would definitely not agree to making a kid, far far junior to them as Minister in the Union Cabinet while they are just ordinary MPs.
When CM Edappadi visited OPS house to thank him for nominating as CM candidate, OP Ravindranath not only came to the door and received him, but also prostrated and sought EPS’s blessings. Read this together with the younger sibling of OPS, Jayapradheep not even meeting EPS though he was very much available in the first floor of the same house.
This is the reason, why OPS was all smiles during yesterday’s ADMK event. A source privy to the developments say, OPS will not take any decision wherein he doesn’t have any personal benefit.
CM Edappadi still has an ace up his sleeve. The deal entered by him with BJP is that he has to ensure the victory of BJP in at least 25 constituencies. He has also promised to bear the expenses for each constituency which estimated to be roughly about 25 crores. The amount may vary depending on the stature of opposition candidate. Due to this clout, Edappadi Palanisamy has also put spokes in BJP’s attempts to rope in TTV Dinakaran to lead the party after merging his AMMK.
BJP knows, Edappadi Palanisamy is a man who can deliver goods. He has delivered on all his promises during the last four years, whereas OPS is a flop. Only due to this assessment about OPS, Delhi failed to open its doors for OPS. Due to this stature of EPS, he may in the last minute suggest either KP Munusamy or Thambidurai or Vaithiyalingam for Minister post and ditch OP.Ravindranath, which may be considered by the BJP keeping in mind the impending assembly polls.
Even if OP Ravindranath is made a Minister in the union cabinet, still it’s a win-win situation for EPS. If Ravindranath is made a Minister, OPS will lose all his stature as a leader. He will be termed as a turncoat for selling out his loyalists for his family interests.
Though there is a new found bonhomie in ADMK following the announcement of Chief Minister candidate, a storm is still brewing.