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Tamil Nadu Assembly Election Results 2021: Trends Hold Key Positives for EPS

File photo of Edappadi K Palaniswami (PTI)

File photo of Edappadi K Palaniswami (PTI)

There are indications that he has steadied himself as the leader of the AIADMK and would be in a much better position to face any dissension.

Edappadi K Palaniswami, who was one among many seemingly servile politicians operating in the obscurity of J Jayalalithaa’s blinding fame, has managed to steer their party towards a tough fight, leading in close to 90 seats in the early hours of counting. The AIADMK has done fairly well across districts, particularly sealing spectacular leads in the western front, where Palaniswami is from. While known DMK bastions such as Chennai and Trichy have gone to the DMK, the AIADMK has managed to avert a major embarrassment in its bastions, winning handsomely in some districts in the west.

Palaniswami, originally a Jayalalithaa loyalist during the post-MGR split in the AIADMK, has been a regional leader at best, and up until February 2017 faced significant headwinds as he took over as chief minister. The AIADMK was in tatters, split into three fronts—Palaniswami leading one, O Panneerselvam leading another and outlying contender TTV Dhinakaran holding on to nearly 18 lawmakers.

Palaniswami had a tough task unifying the faction of Panneerselvam. VK Sasikala, in prison over a disproportionate assets case, had earned the ire of the BJP and remained outside the AIADMK, which proved to be a significant cost factor in this election.

In addition to that the AIADMK had to face the heat of some anti-BJP sentiment on the ground, created by the DMK’s formidable social media machinery. The AIADMK had operated on caste calculations for this election, awarding the north-inhabiting Vanniyar community a sub-allocation in the OBC reservation quota. Apparently, the move fomented trouble for the AIADMK’s southern leaders—Panneerselvam had to clarify that the reservation was merely on paper, an attempt to assuage hurt sentiments among other communities.

Palaniswami had to firefight a lot during his troubled tenure. Be it the Pollachi sexual assault case, or the police brutality case of Jayaraj-Benicks in the south, he had taken the flak frontally. Nothing equals the flak the government has received in the Vedanta Sterlite Copper factory row. These events, amplified on social media, have come back to hurt Palaniswami.

Still, the AIADMK alliance bringing it close to 90 will have solid positives for Palaniswami. It also proves he has steadied himself as the leader of the AIADMK and would be in a much better position to face any intra-party wrangles in the future.

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