The ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu on Saturday endorsed Chief Minister K Palaniswami as its CM candidate for this year's high-stakes Assembly polls, where the party will take on arch rival DMK in a tough electoral battle. AIADMK's top decision-making body General Council also authorised O Panneerselvam and Palaniswami–the top leaders– to devise the party's strategy for the polls and endorsed the appointment of a steering committee, which is likely to play a key role in important matters.
Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu are likely to be held in April-May. The party's general council, besides the Executive, met at a marriage hall here under the leadership of AIADMK Coordinator Panneerselvam and joint coordinator Palaniswami.
Palaniswami is the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu while Panneerselvam is his deputy. In one of the 16 resolutions adopted at the meeting, the party members authorised the two leaders to devise AIADMK's electoral strategy, even as it eyes a hat trick of victories, after securing back to back wins in 2011 and 2016 under the late J Jayalalithaa.
"This general council authorises O Panneerselvam and Edapadi K Palaniswami to devise winning strategies to ensure a grand win in the 2021 polls, create an AIADMK-led victory alliance and decide seat-sharing with alliance parties," the members resolved. The party has earned the public's praise for "good governance," it added.
The AIADMK had earlier led the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), its constituents being the BJP, DMDK and PMK among others, in the state for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and its two top leaders have already confirmed the party's alliance with the BJP. The general council also endorsed Panneerselvam's October 2020 announcement that Palaniswami will be the AIADMK's chief ministerial candidate for the polls.
The members said they "unanimously accept the announcement and will work hard to ensure victory" and bring Palaniswami back to the post after the elections. Further, it approved the appointment of a steering committee, which was announced in October last year.
The six Ministers and five other office-bearers in the committee are seen as loyalists of Palaniswami and Panneerselvam respectively. The setting up of such a committee was Panneerselvam's long pending demand then.
Targeting DMK President M K Stalin, the party alleged that he was unable to bear the growing public support for its government, as well as Palaniswami's administrative acumen and was therefore indulging in "uncultured" criticism of the CM. It condemned Stalin and his DMK supporters for "personal attacks." In an apparent reference to its arch rival, the party, in another resolution, said it would strive hard to "put an end to the dynasty politics of one family" and ensure that a "true democratic government" under AIADMK was installed post-polls.
It also lauded the government on different matters such as the 7.5 per cent quota in medical education for government school students who clear the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET) and attracting investments to the state. Further, it opposed the Sri Lankan government's move to scrap the provincial councils, saying it would impact the Tamils there and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene in the matter.
In his address, Panneerselvam said the party was above individuals and urged for a united fight to secure a "grand, unprecedented victory" in the coming elections. He urged party workers to go to the people with DMK's "scams and betrayals" such as ceding of Katchatheevu islet in the 1970s and not taking steps for notifying the final award of the Cauvery disputes tribunal in a gazette.
He said there was no factionalism in the party and that no leader, including himself or Palaniswami, have said "be loyal to me", but only insisted for unity among the ranks. "Ours is the only democratic organisation where workers can become even chief minister and deputy CM, which is not the case with others….setting aside differences, work with the sole aim of party's victory (in the polls)," he said.
Palaniswami, targeting DMK over "dynasty politics", said that while earlier it was the late M Karunanidhi at the helm of affairs, "it was then (MK) Stalin and now Udhayanidhi (Stalin's son)." "In this election, end this dynasty politics," he said. For AIADMK stalwarts, the late chief ministers M G Ramachandran (party founder) and Jayalalithaa people were their heirs, he said.
He reiterated that the CM's post is a "responsibility" and said "I see everyone here as a CM." Palaniswami thanked "elder brother" Panneerselvam for earlier announcing him as the party's CM face in the coming polls and the general council and the executive for endorsing the same today.