Chaos and confusion appear to be the new normal for the ruling AIADMK (Amma).
Deputy General Secretary TTV Dhinakaran’s much hyped return to active politics on August 5 may not have set off fireworks in the party. His unexpected move to appoint 64 office bearers of the AIADMK (Amma), on the other hand, has definitely set the cat among the pigeons.
The question that everyone is asking – what does TTV Dhinakaran, sidelined from the party for months following bribery allegations, intend by suddenly appointing new office bearers? Is this an attempt to assert his authority, a move to garner more loyalists or is it simply an attempt to make Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami blink first by creating disarray within the party?
Senior journalist R Mani notes that Friday’s announcement by TTV Dhinakaran came with the blessings of his aunt and AIADMK (Amma) General Secretary VK Sasikala. “The move to appoint new office bearers is the handiwork of Sasikala. Edappadi Palaniswami is no longer in her clutches and this decision was made to take him down,” he argues. Pointing out that Sasikala removed former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam in February when he began to assert himself, Mani says that a similar strategy is being formulated for EPS.
On his part, Dhinakaran was quick to remind his supporters and the media on Friday that it was Sasikala who offered EPS the Chief Minister’s chair. “If she had left the place (Koovathur resort) without announcing EPS as CM, they would have known (their real situation).
It was Chinamma who installed this government and everyone should realise that,” Dhinakaran asserted.
While ministers like D Jayakumar stated that Dhinakaran’s announcement would cause confusion and termed it a “mockery of the process of making appointments”, the Chief Minister has chosen to remain silent so far on the issue.
Reacting to Jayakumar’s comments, MLA P Vetrivel, a Dhinakaran loyalist, told TNM, “Minister Jayakumar is merely creating confusion and does not represent the Chief Minister. If the CM has a problem with this, let him address it directly. We would like to hear it from the horse's mouth. These ministers are merely making statements that are inconsistent and you cannot keep changing your stand all the time.”
Forcing the CM’s hand
What TTV has done is force the CM’s hand, argues political analyst Sumanth C Raman. “Dhinakaran is trying to push and see how far he can go. The ball is in EPS’ court. If he delays taking a stand, TTV’s clout will increase. He cannot let this drift,” observes Sumanth.
With the merger of the AIADMK factions on the line, Sumanth reasons that this could be the CM’s opportunity to cut ties with the Sasikala and family once and for all. “If the CM takes a stand, it can create a powerful block with the EPS and OPS factions comfortably seeing the government through for the next few years.”
But a merger between the two warring factions may be far from easy, says Mani. With Sasikala and clan having dominated the AIADMK for the last 30 years, handpicking a number of ministers and party leaders, her influence is part of the party’s DNA, the senior journalist observes.
The infighting brewing in the AIADMK, Mani explains, is being spurred on by the BJP at the Centre. “Modi is backing OPS. EPS is prostrating before Modi. The BJP wants Sasikala and TTV Dhinakaran to be purged from the party. He wants to bring the AIADMK to its knees. But whether the BJP realises or not, Sasikala and co are part of the AIADMK’s DNA,” notes the senior journalist.
And while Edappadi Palaniswami may proudly proclaim that “as long as Amma’s blessings are with us, no one can shake the government,” the reality remains far less certain. Over the past few months, the Tamil Nadu government (both under OPS and EPS) has chosen to dilute its position on several policies that late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa stridently opposed – from GST and UDAY (the central government’s power scheme) to the Food Security Act. In each case, Jayalalithaa had opposed the policies as overstepping federal boundaries.
As the ruling AIADMK and its cadres brace themselves for another upheaval, what's certain is that Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran will not go down without a fight.