It is no secret that 2017 saw the factions of the AIADMK under O Panneerselavam and Edappadi Palaniswami scurrying one after the other to meet the Prime Minister, even as the state plunged into political turmoil. There has been much debate on the BJP's hand in bringing the two factions together, though the national party has denied it repeatedly. But, Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has thrown caution to the winds to proclaim that he only took up his latest ministerial stint at the insistence of PM Narendra Modi.
Speaking at a public gathering at Theni district, Paneerselvam recalled the Prime Minister narrating his experience of talking to former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa during a luncheon in Chennai.
The PM apparently said, "When I came to Chennai, respected Amma had invited me for a meal and I had gone. Amma said a lot of things to me about you. In this situation, you have to take charge in order to protect the party."
Following this, OPS claims he did not want a ministerial position. "I said okay but explained that I did not want a minister's position, just a party role would do. He (the PM) said 'No no no, you have to take up a minister's role and be part of the government. It is because of this that I took up the minister's position. I told the other ministers - Velumani, Thangamani about this. I said he is saying this and I said no. They immediately said I shouldn't say no to him. That is why I am a minister today. Not because I have the desire to be a minister. Amma made me chief Minister twice. That honour is enough for me," said the Deputy CM.
Pannerselvam's latest declaration has confirmed without doubt that the BJP was scripting the union of the two factions under OPS and EPS. And while the AIADMK has recently taken stands against some of the centre's policies, this latest claim plunges it back into the image of being controlled by the BJP.
"This is what our leader MK Stalin has been saying from the very beginning. The BJP is influencing the AIADMK," says A Saravanan, spokesperson for the DMK. "OPS is sending a message to EPS that Narendra Modi is backing him and to convey to followers that he doesn't care about posts. The union itself is riding on a wafer thin understanding. The fault lines are becoming more visible now."