Chennai, July 17(BPNS)
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(AIADMK) , the opposition political party of Tamil Nadu has had always enjoyed a monolithic leadership till the demise of J Jayalalithaa. The founder leader of the party MG Ramachandran, the Tamil matinee idol turned politician had floated the AIADMK as Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(ADMK) in 1972 and during emergency to escape the wrath of Indira Gandhi was later name changed to All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(AIADMK).
Ever since the days of MG Ramachandran(Popularly known as MGR), the AIADMK has been a political party with a single leader at the helm and the second rung far away from the power centre. This continued during the period of Jayalalithaa from 1989 t0 2016 when she passed away and this has been the hallmark of AIADMK brand of politics or rather a Dravidian style of politics with the family of former Chief Minister, late M. Karunanidhi, firmly in the saddle in the ruling DMK with the late leader’s son M.K.Stalin becoming the Chief Minister of the state.
While Jayalalithaa had an undisputed stint in the party since 1989 when the widow of MGR, Janaki Ramachandran merged her faction of the AIADMK with the faction of Jayalalithaa and she continued in the post of party general secretary till her passing away in 2016.
After Jayalalithaa’s passing away, there was a factional feud between O. Panneerselvam and Edappadi K . Palaniswami with the former floating AIADMK(Puratchi Thalaivi) and the latter forming AIADMK(Amma). However after Sasikala was jailed in the disproportionate asset case, both these factions joined together with Paneerselvam becoming the finance minister and Chief Coordinator of AIADMK while Edappadi K Palaniswami becoming the Chief Minister and coordinator.
With the party to announce organizational polls in a week’s time, there seems to be a major grouping in the party on caste lines, with the powerful Thevar community of Pannerselvam and Gounder community of Edappadi K Palaniswami being pitted against each other. While Southern Tamil Nadu is a major area of the Thevar community and thereby giving an edge to the Panneerselvam section, the Western Tamil Nadu comprising of Coimbatore, Salem, and Erode supporting the Gounder leader Edappadi K Palaniswami.
S. Sivasankar, journalist and social activist from Madurai said,” The organizational elections of AIADMK which is generally held every five years may lead to a major division in the party on caste and communal lines as also geographical divide. While the Thevar community is supporting O Panneerselvam to head the party, the Gounders are for Edappadi K Palniswami. This may turn wide open after the elections are announced and there is a major movement among both the factions to grab the AIADMK which will be opposed stoutly by the other faction.”
As party organizational elections will take place for party branch, town, municipal, district committee, and state office bearers to take place, there would be allegations and counter-allegations between supporters of both the leaders and this could lead to misunderstanding. Another major issue being faced by the present AIADMK leadership will be the role to be played by V.K.Sasikala who from her T Nagar residence is trying to contact party office bearers and party lower rung leaders in a bid to open a channel with these leaders. She is contacting several AIADMK leaders after conducting a proper background check and after scrutinising these leaders, she is slowly but surely communicating to them.
However, AIADMK current leadership said that Sasikala is in no way a threat to the party and the new party bylaw which was amended in 2019 has clearly mentioned that any leader or party worker who had taken a break from the party membership or expelled from the party will not be able to contest the party organizational elections. This was clearly aimed at Sasikala and this would result in the former Interim general secretary not being able to contest the party polls.
However, Sasikala will use the good officers of the Thevar community leaders to bring up a patch-up with O. Panneerselvam as both these leaders are from the Thevar community. Sasikala has a grass root connect among the AIADMK cadres being the closest aide of Jayalalithaa and this she is trying to capitalize on.
The AIADMK which has long been a monolithic party may experience dissent during the run up to the organizational elections, thus leading to a mutual distrust among the leaders and bringing in open the organizational weakness of the party. While the chance of a vertical split is a distant possibility, the mutual mistrust will lead to uneasiness at the top which would not augur well for the AIADMK as an opposition political party that had enjoyed power for a consecutive ten years from 2011 to 2021.