New Delhi: What emboldens a man with the support of less than 10 MLAs to blackmail someone who has the support of more than a hundred? This is the moot question that needs to be asked in the ongoing OPS versus EPS war that’s playing out in Tamil Nadu.
In politics, it’s often the will of the majority that prevails, but in Tamil Nadu you have a unique situation where a three-time former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam is holding out from cementing a deal with estranged rival and current Chief Minister Edappadi Palaswamy.
The numbers are clearly stacked against OPS. What gives him the power to hold out for so long from saying yes to this potential marriage?
The OPS-EPS war is clearly a fight between David and Goliath, if one were to go purely by numbers. But even David had a secret weapon to bring down the mighty Goliath: the slingshot. In Tamil Nadu, OPS’ slingshot happens to be the BJP.
Political observers say it is the BJP that is the driving force behind this deal. It is not lost on anyone in Tamil Nadu that this deal was getting formalised just a day ahead of BJP National President Amit Shah’s visit to Chennai on August 22, which was later cancelled.
News18 has learnt that on Friday night the plan was that both OPS and EPS would go to Amma Samadhi together and announce the merger from there, with ‘Jayalalithaa’s blessings’.
The CM was waiting with half a dozen of his ministers for a word from OPS’ house where a key meeting of the latter’s faction was underway.
Even the CM’s convoy was ready. However, News18 has learnt that at least 3 members of the OPS team, former MLA KP Munuswamy, former Speaker PH Pandian and former MP Dr. Maitreyan, held out.
It is evident that they stand to lose the most if any deal were to come through. Nonetheless, OPS sounded confident over the weekend and has been telling his close confidantes to expect good news by Monday. Incidentally, Monday also happens to be an auspicious day, Amavasya.
After Sasikala’s coup d’état of installing her proxy EPS as the Chief Minister, before leaving for jail, it became clearer to BJP that depending on OPS was not good enough.
The final nail was the confidence vote which EPS comfortably won with 122 MLAS by his side. Over the next six months the BJP set out wooing both EPS and OPS. The Prime Minister himself has met the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister half a dozen times in the last 6 months.
The BJP’s game plan is simple: In a state where it’s going to take some time for the ‘lotus’ to bloom, their best bet is to ride on the crutches of the AIADMK, while there is a leadership vacuum.
Neither OPS nor EPS would dare to stand up to either the Prime Minister or to party boss Amit Shah. The one person who could have done that is Sasikala, but she is going to be in jail for the foreseeable future. That paves the way for the BJP to remotely control a big state like Tamil Nadu through the various AIADMK factions.
The invisible hand of the BJP is very apparent to AIADMK party workers and also the people of Tamil Nadu. Which is why, OPS, twice in two days, went out of his way to tell reporters that this merger has nothing to do with the BJP or Amit Shah’s visit. The BJP for its part says the only interest they have is in having a stable government in Tamil Nadu for which a united AIADMK is a must.
The biggest loser in this merger would, however, be TTV Dhinakaran. After having claimed that he has more than 40 MLAs with him, it has become evident now that those numbers have been dwindling.
Last week in Melur, only 19 MLAs showed up at TTV’s rally. Again, in a crucial last Friday, at the Woodlands Hotel in Chennai, only 3 MLAs showed up. TTV is holding a rally in North Chennai on Monday.
It’ll be interesting to see the kind of crowds he’s able to pull and more importantly, how many MLAs share the stage with Dhinakaran.