EPS, OPS both eye CM post: Ahead of AIADMK merger, here's what warring factions really want
The AIADMK factions are desperate for a unity because they realise they will find fighting the next civic body elections tough against the DMK in the absence of the familiar 'two leaves' election symbol.
After AIADMK suffered a split, with some MPs and MLAs joining the former chief minister O Panneerselvam (OPS) camp, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswamy (EPS), a V K Sasikala loyalist, survived a confidence vote in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. In the last couple of months, a merger seemed likely as Panneerselvam first sent out signals of a possible rapprochement between the rival factions, a move which was promptly welcomed by the Sasikala camp followers.
Both the AIADMK factions are desperate for reuniting the two warring groups because they realise they will find fighting the next civic body elections tough against the DMK in the absence of the familiar "two leaves" election symbol.
In March, the AIADMK faction led by Panneerselvam met Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi to stake claim to the party symbol of 'two leaves' for the RK Nagar seat by-election. Panneerselvam had throughout maintained, "Amma had always been against the family rule."
The merger talks began but gave way to Panneerselvam camp's certain conditions.
OPS supporters' demands
According to News 18, Panneerselvam supporters said he should return as the chief minister. His faction has argued that OPS was chosen by Jayalalithaa as her political heir in her ‘will’ and was regarded as the former chief minister's Man Friday. Secondly, OPS and his supporters said an inquiry commission should be set up to probe the circumstances of Jayalalithaa’s death.
Panneerselvam's most important demand for a merger was the ouster of Sasikala, who is currently in a Bengaluru jail, her nephew Dinakaran (also spelled at Dhinakaran) and their family members from the ruling AIADMK. Panneerselvam said no one from the Sasikala family should interfere in the functioning of the AIADMK. Panneerselvam wants the duo to resign from their respective party posts of general secretary and deputy general secretary.
According to Panneerselvam, the war for justice would continue "till the main goal is achieved". On Wednesday, he said the ouster of the rival AIADMK faction's two leaders was his faction's first victory in the "dharma yudh".
How EPS camp sees the demands
As this Firstpost article noted, while OPS projected himself as having been Jayalalithaa's chosen one on more than one occasion, EPS was hoping to stay the chief minister while allowing OPS to become party chief. Offering the post of deputy chief minister to EPS is an option the OPS camp is mulling but there is no clarity if the chief minister will agree to a demotion. Also, a Thevar (OPS) replacing a Gounder (EPS) caste person as the chief minister may not go down very well with the latter caste.
The narrative being spun by the mainstream media with active inputs from the OPS social media team was that the EPS camp legislators were flocking to the OPS camp and this was another hurdle for the EPS supporters. For the Palaniswamy camp, this results in humiliation since they are now the ruling formation.
The merger also means a group of 25 MLAs, who are personally loyal to Sasikala and Dinakaran will have to choose their sides since some of them are quite suspicious of Panneerselvam's connection with the BJP leadership in Delhi.
According to The Hindu, welcoming Panneerselvam's ''call'' for unity, Finance Minister D Jayakumar said the AIADMK lawmakers discussed ways to unite the party and get back the 'two Leaves' symbol frozen by the Election Commission. Jayakumar had gone on to say it is like a sibling fight and they will join hands soon. He added that all 128 AIADMK MLAs were united and supporting the idea of a merger.
There are some like health minister Vijayabaskar or even senior MLA Senthil Balaji who do not see a ministerial chair for themselves in the new arrangement and are therefore not excited about the merger.
Many also feel they owe their political career to Jayalalithaa and Sasikala and do not see any reason to worship a new rising sun in the party for their political future. There have also been reports of some in the EPS camp want to replace one D (Dinakaran) with another D (Dhivakaran) and are sure OPS that he will not hold a party post but only be a guiding force from behind the scenes from the Mannargudi family.
Palaniswamy has, however, said talks will be held and conclusions arrived at "as per the desire of people."
Dinakaran, who had earlier welcomed the idea of expelled leaders such as Panneerselvam coming back to the party, said he had no problems with a possible merger of the factions now headed by Palaniswami and his predecessor Panneerselvam. "I am not against the merger... If the chief minister takes a decision, it should not affect the party in future also. It doesn't matter whom he joins with," he said.
Dinakaran on Wednesday said the state ministers have decided to keep him out of the party due to some fear. Speaking to reporters he said: "Due to some unknown fear, the ministers have taken the decision."
With inputs from PTI