Political observers are skeptical if the two leaves symbol alone can add credibility to the ruling AIADMK.

EPS-OPS win two leaves Will it make a real difference
news Politics Thursday, November 23, 2017 - 14:13

Ending months of suspense, the Election Commission on Thursday allotted the frozen two leaves symbol to the ruling AIADMK faction led by Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and Deputy CM O Panneerselvam.  

The ruling ends the tussle between the two AIADMK camps – one led by late CM Jayalalithaa’s aide and now ousted leader VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, and the other by the merged EPS-OPS combine.  

But just how decisive is this victory for the United AIADMK under EPS? Is it merely symbolism or something more? Can the two leaves symbol help swing votes in favour of the ruling party?  

Speaking to TNM, Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan, who stands with the United AIADMK, said, "It's a great boost. In the history of independent India, we are the only party to get its symbol back not once, twice. There is a vote bank that still votes for the two leaves symbol, we will retain them. Also, the other faction loses credibility."

However, political observers in Tamil Nadu offer a mixed reading of the impact this ruling will have on elections in the state.

Writer and analyst Gnani Sankaran termed the Election Commission’s ruling as a big achievement for EPS and OPS.  “Getting back the two leaves symbol is a big achievement for them, especially in the immediate RK Nagar bye-elections.  The symbol will give them a chunk of votes. The EC verdict also helps because it recognises the EPS faction as the official AIADMK party.”

While Gnani pointed out that sidelined TTV Dhinakaran may challenge the verdict, he said, “AIADMK loyalists who vote for the symbol will continue to vote for the two leaves. It is an advantage for EPS.”

Ramu Manivannan, Professor of Political Science at Madras University is less emphatic about the advantage for the united AIADMK.

“Two leaves symbol is a critical factor. But this government doesn’t have any character. People are not blindfolded. There are limits to everything. Both the factions have mutually destroyed themselves and Tamil Nadu’s politics,” noted Ramu Manivannan, Professor of Political Science at Madras University.

He, however, observed that the influence of the two leaves symbol is greater in the southern districts, which has traditionally been an AIADMK stronghold.

With speculation rife that the ruling AIADMK is inching closer to the BJP and could possibly tie-up ahead of polls, he added, “If AIADMK and BJP go in for an alliance, it could give them prominence having the two leaves and the lotus symbol.”

Following former CM O Panneerselvam’s rebellion against Sasikala, the Election Commission had frozen the two leaves symbol on March 22, ahead of the RK Nagar bye-elections, which was later scrapped over allegations of voter bribery. In its March order, the EC had barred the use of the name of the party – All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the two leaves symbol.

In August, the factions supporting OPS and EPS merged. Sasikala and Dhinakaran, however, continued to stake claim to the party and the symbol.   

This is the second instance where the AIADMK party symbol has been frozen and then unfrozen by the Election Commission. Following party founder and former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran’s demise in 1987 – the AIADMK was split between his wife Janaki and his protégé Jayalalithaa. Ahead of the 1989 Assembly Elections, the EC had frozen the two leaves symbol.

Following Janaki’s rout in the Assembly polls, the two factions merged, paving the way for Jayalalithaa to reclaim the party symbol.

Also read: Massive win for EPS-OPS: Two leaves symbol goes to them, rules EC

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.