6 months after split and an OPS-EPS' AIADMK merger that an RSS ideologue helped craft, where is party headed now?
Tamil Nadu's ruling party declared freedom on Monday noon from political acrimony and confusion and announce that the AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma) headed by OPS was no longer legal tender.
Last date of filing returns for every citizen of India was 5 August, but it pays to be a blue-eyed boy of the powers-that-be. O Panneerselvam was given a two-week grace period to file his 'return' submitting 'Form 10 MLA' and link his rebel Aadhaar card to the AIADMK PAN by 21 August.
Tamil Nadu's ruling party declared freedom on Monday noon from political acrimony and confusion and announce that the AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma) headed by OPS was no longer legal tender. The timing went a bit awry, delayed by almost three hours, thanks to some last-minute dispute over VK Sasikala's expulsion.
Just a little before noon, chief minister E Palaniswamy reportedly expressed his inability to expel Sasikala since she had been elected as interim general secretary by the General Council in December. At best, the Palaniswamy was willing to give a letter stating the General Council would soon meet to take the decision to distance the party from Sasikala. With a huge trust deficit, OPS was not willing to return home with just an assurance to go by. The question bothering him obviously was, if EPS can ditch the person who made him chief minister, what prevented him from not honouring his word to the Panneerselvam camp.
That's where a Chennai-based RSS ideologue stepped in asking OPS to leave it to the Election Commission to decide on the legal validity of Sasikala's election. EPS preferred that option, as well, because it would mean he did not have to do the dirty job of throwing out the person who made him the chief minister. That cleared the decks for the two warring partners to give the political marriage of convenience another shot, after a six-month separation.
After the acrimonious meeting of the OPS camp on Friday, when many of the OPS campers got into a "what about me?" mode, a few concessions were made over the weekend. The interests of the non-MLAs were met with some of them likely to be given positions of prominence in the coordination committee that will now run the party under Panneerselvam's leadership. Some of the Rajya Sabha members have been promised a second term. A couple of the MPs, one from each camp, were promised berths in the NDA ministry.
Simultaneously, undated footage of Bengaluru central prison was released where Sasikala and Ilavarasi are seen entering the jail premises. The presence of the male guards, in the video, indicated it is not the women prison and the bags in their hand suggest a shopping trip. The timing of the release of the footage makes one suspect that it has been done in order to sully Sasikala's already discredited image further, as someone who is making money buy her a luxurious life behind bars.
A letter written by the secretary of the labour cell of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress to chief minister Siddaramaiah in which he alleged that Sasikala was seen shopping at MG Road and Commercial Street in Bengaluru, clad in a burqa, only added more spice.
— T S Sudhir (@Iamtssudhir) August 21, 2017
Sasikala's review petition coming up in the Supreme court on Tuesday is another reason why the timing of the release of this CCTV footage raises eyebrows. Clearly the attempt is to show Sasikala who is clad in civil clothes as a law-breaker and spike her chances of getting a reprieve from the apex court.
As if on cue, Tamil Nadu Governor Vidyasagar Rao also flew into Chennai to be in place for the new members of the cabinet to be sworn in. The Rao of August is a far cry from the Rao of February, when he displayed extreme reluctance to leave the Raj Bhawan in Mumbai, where he holds charge of Governor of Maharashtra. Six months ago, he did not swear in Sasikala as chief minister despite her election as the leader of the AIADMK legislature party, taking refuge in the Supreme court verdict in the Disproportionate Assets case that was to be delivered a week later. His presence in Chennai points to a well-coordinated effort to ensure a they-lived-happily-ever-after ending in the AIADMK parivaar.
Where does the AIADMK go from here? With TTV Dinakaran holding on to his group of 20 MLAs who were by his side at the Melur public meeting last week, the AIADMK government will be short of political oxygen. It will be a minority government that can be toppled should these rebel MLAs vote in favour of a DMK-sponsored no-confidence motion. But EPS and OPS combo will hope that with AIADMK legislators not keen on facing an elections, the benefits of power will be a seduction hard to resist.
Before the sun sets on Monday, OPS could well be deputy chief minister in the EPS government, with two plum portfolios under his watch. He will also get to be the face of the AIADMK as the party affairs coordinator, though nowhere as powerful as Jayalalithaa was.
Monday's union brings the curtains down on the long drawn-out merger saga with both sides advised to bury the hatchet. But it is anyone's guess how long it will be before the knives are out. Unless the Fevikwik of power is of top quality.
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