The alphabetical algebra of Tamil Nadu politics is taking shape. The formula is EPS + OPS - TTV x BJP = NDA. The math will be formally unveiled on Independence Day, just days before two AIADMK MPs, one from either camp, are sworn in as ministers of state in Team Narendra Modi at the Centre.
But before the Central ministry hopefuls shop for new veshtis, the cabinet in Chennai is being given a makeover. Sources aware of the new set-up that has been worked out say that the AIADMK will now have a party affairs coordinator (though the exact nomenclature has not yet been finalised). O Panneerselvam will occupy this post, effectively making him the party chief. Chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami will also be the deputy party affairs coordinator. A core committee of six leaders which is likely to include senior leaders like KP Munusamy, Vaithilingam, Natham Vishwanathan, will be the third tier of the party that will report to the party affairs coordinator and the deputy.
What this essentially means is that the present party structure of a general secretary will not be touched, because that case is before the Election Commission. What will be done instead is to create a parallel power structure and treating this AIADMK as AIADMK (Amma) rather than the original AIADMK under Jayalalithaa. This makes it less of a merger and more of an acquisition of the AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma) of Panneerselvam by the ruling faction.
The argument in favour of operating in this grey area is that in any case the party's two leaves symbol is frozen. OPS will withdraw his camp's case on the party symbol so that the AIADMK can eventually get hold of the symbol.
The reverse will come into effect at Fort St George. EPS will continue as chief minister while OPS is being asked to become deputy chief minister with the PWD portfolio. The Panneerselvam camp is demanding that the home ministry also be allotted to him. Two more MLAs from OPS camp — K Pandiarajan and Semmalai — will be inducted into the cabinet as well. Health minister C Vijayabaskar, tainted by the Income Tax raids, could be shown the door.
However, the decks have not been completely cleared for Panneerselvam's return to the cabinet. In a complete departure from the manner in which the AIADMK operated under Jayalalithaa, a clearer picture is likely to emerge after both Palaniswami and Panneerselvam visit Delhi on Friday to attend Venkaiah Naidu's swearing-in ceremony as vice-president.
OPS also feels that having been chief minister of Tamil Nadu thrice, albeit for short durations, becoming deputy chief minister will show him as a power-hungry politician. Those advising him have however, told him to get in first, holding the carrot of a promotion later.
What this deal means is that the return of the native takes place without his principal condition of Sasikala's removal or a probe into Jayalalithaa's death being met. OPS has agreed to it because frankly his hand was forced by the rumblings within his faction.
In the past two months, some MLAs in his group have expressed unhappiness that they have not gained anything by staying by Panneerselvam's side. Legislator VC Arukutty's decision to go back to the ruling AIADMK was an indication that MLAs could choose the return flight and enjoy the perks of power instead of surviving aimlessly in a rump group. Panneerselvam saw the writing on the wall.
Not that there was no pressure on EPS as well to call a truce. Much of this rush has happened also because of TTV Dinakaran's decision to appoint 40 new office bearers. EPS realised that if he did not react to it, it would give Dinakaran's legitimacy within the party. Which is why six months after Sasikala appointed her nephew as deputy general secretary, EPS suddenly realised that the appointment is in violation of party bylaws and declared his post illegal.
So does the latest round of Aaya Panneerselvam Gaya Dinakaran leave the Mannargudi family out in the cold? Given the unpredictable nature of AIADMK politics, it would be foolhardy to underestimate Dinakaran. He has the support of at least 12 to 15 MLAs and while he may not be able to bring down the government, the narrative of an AIADMK completely surrendering to the BJP, would work for him if he uses it intelligently.
Apart from a Chennai-based political analyst, a Union minister has been the go-between between the AIADMK camps and New Delhi. The Dinakaran camp has already rubbished the merger moves by getting inspired by the prime minister and the Vice-President-elect and coined acronyms for the two AIADMK leaders. Dinakaran supporters have labelled OPS as 'Old Permanent Servant' and EPS as 'Effective Powerful Servant' to the BJP.
While the merger will bring some closure to the long-drawn out yawn drama in Tamil Nadu, it is unlikely that the new power structure will come with a warranty period.
Updated Date: Aug 10, 2017 17:13 PM