Separate closed door meetings and back-to-back parleys on Wednesday over who should lead the party indicated a gathering storm of power struggle in the AIADMK between top leaders, O Panneerselvam and Edappadi K Palaniswami.
Ahead of the general and executive council meetings here on June 23, posters rooting for their leaders Panneerselvam (OPS) and Palaniswami (EPS) respectively surfaced in several parts of Tamil Nadu. Supporters of OPS staged a protest here opposing ‘removal’ of posters in support of their leader.
Following deliberations with EPS, senior AIADMK leader, Dindigul Srinivasan along with former Minister RB Udhayakumar visited OPS at his residence. Asked on talks, Mr Srinivasan told reporters that negotiations were being held without any hindrance. ‘Wait and see,’ he said, answering a question on who would be formalised as the party head.
On whom he would support, he said he would be backing EPS. Separate meetings were held by OPS and EPS in which their supporters participated and discussions were on handling the ‘unitary leadership’ question, party sources said.
Meanwhile, Mr Panneerselvam took to Twitter and asked the party workers to “maintain calm.” “I kindly request all the AIADMK workers to maintain calm,” the party Coordinator said.
A demand that the party be led by a single leader emerged again in the main opposition AIADMK on June 14 at a party meeting here.
In wall posters, supporters of OPS hailed him as the political heir of late party supremo J Jayalalithaa while EPS loyalists praised him as the choice of 1.5 crore ordinary party workers. Similar poster wars had erupted in the past as well.
Last night, party deputy coordinator R Vaithilingam and JCD Prabhakar had held consultations with OPS. Vaithilingam had however ruled out any discussions with OPS on who should lead the party.
While EPS appears to have an upper hand in the party, it remains to be seen if he would be able to pacify the OPS camp and assume the top party position.
It is expected that the party general and executive council meetings may adopt resolutions to re-model the party’s command structure. While negotiations are on, it is not clear if initiatives by supporters of Mr Palaniswami to facilitate the apex position in the party for him would succeed or not, ahead of the crucial party meet.
The party founded by iconic M G Ramachandran after he walked out of the DMK was headed by Jayalalitha after his death. While her friend and aide Sasikala was crowned party chief after her death, she sacked OPS and made EPS the chief Minister after her conviction in the disproportionate assets case in which Jayalalitha was the prime accused. However as she remained in jail EPS and OPS patched up, expelled her from party and created dual leadership with OPS as Cordinator of AIADMK and EPS as Joint Coordinator. EPS also inducted OPS as deputy Chief Minister in the government.
Though the Thevar community to which OPS and Sasikala belongs has commanded a dominant role in AIADMK for decades, during his Chief Ministership of EPS his Gounder community gained control and EPS brought the party under his control.
Politically the dual leadership has been a disaster. Under them the AIADMK suffered three successive poll defeats in Lok Sabha polls, assembly elections and urban local body polls.
The leadership is also criticised for playing into the hands of BJP through electoral ties which Jayalalitha had avoided for long.
In December 2021, the AIADMK had amended its bye-laws to strengthen norms to retain the present leadership structure of top two positions held by Mr Panneerselvam and Mr Palaniswami (Joint coordinator).
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)