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4-min read

Towards a United AIADMK: What Prompted EPS to Act With Urgency?

Was it that TTV Dinakaran held a hugely successful rally that has sent left both OPS and EPS worried? Or were there other compulsions? The two leaders had also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi just two days ago.

Deepa Balakrishnan, Poornima Muralideepab18

Updated:August 17, 2017, 11:30 PM IST
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Towards a United AIADMK: What Prompted EPS to Act With Urgency?
The poster of a popular magazine displays the pictures of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami and his rival O Panneerselvam on the two-leaves AIADMK symbol, depicting the factional feud. (File photo/PTI)

Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisami has made a decisive push towards rapprochement in the now-on-now-off merger talks between the two major factions of the All India Anna DMK (AIADMK).

The negotiations have reopened, or re-re-re-opened, out of compulsions, and there are any number of guesses on what has so urgently pushed the EPS camp into the arms of the OPS faction yet again.

Those close to former CM O Panneerselvam (OPS) say the olive branch extended by CM EK Palanisamy (EPS) by bowing to the two major conditions for talks – a judicial probe into Jayalalithaa’s death and converting her Poes Garden Home into a memorial - still doesn’t confirm what the relationship between the AIDMK and Sasikala and her family would be like going forward.

OPS’ aide ‘MaFoi’ K Pandiarajan welcomed the EPS camp announcement warmly, saying it sets the stage for a united AIDMK and was a victory for OPS’ “dharma yuddh.” Others, however, were more cautious. An MLA said that OPS is yet to make up his mind on whether these two steps are enough to start talks.

But more importantly, where does the entire melee leave TTV Dinakaran, who held a massive rally near Madurai last week. How much can he trust the MLAs who attended his rally? These are the questions in the minds of the prime movers in these merger talks.

“Now OPS has to decide if he wants to take the Pandiarajan line - that all demands have been met - or the Munusamy line - that the main demand of throwing out Sasikala has not been met. A clear picture on merger will emerge only after OPS makes this decision,” says Associate Editor of Frontline, R K Radhakrishnan.

While CM Palaniswami himself did not make statements against the Sasikala family, the other ministers maintained that they have decided to oust both Sasikala and TTV Dinakaran from their party posts. They said this was decided last week, when the party passed a resolution stripping TTV of his post and invalidating all actions by him on behalf of the party.

“This is Edappadi acting at a time when it is absolutely necessary to act. Remember, this CM didn't allow a discussion on the suspicions behind the death of former CM Jayalalithaa in the Assembly, and has resolutely opposed any suggestions to hold an inquiry. This move, as is the move to make Jayalalithaa's house a memorial, is political, and is driven by the realpolitik at play these last few weeks,” Radhakrishnan says.

So was it that TTV held a hugely successful rally that has sent left both OPS and EPS worried? Or were there other compulsions? Remember, they both met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi just two days ago.

‘MaFoi’ refuted suggestions that Thursday’s announcements had anything to with TTV’s popularity, or the BJP’s hand. “Thirteen of the 19 MLAs who went for TTV’s rally came back to the EPS camp. There is no BJP role either. Even the resolution indirectly acts against Sasikala. The discussion should now be on the party structure and vision,” he told News18.

TTV loyalist P Vetrivel, another MLA, says the announcements are being done only “to damage the reputation of Sasikala,” the self-styled Chinnamma, who had said she is the true legacy-bearer of Jayalalithaa, or Amma to millions.

“Our leader TTV had already stated in the first rally, that a judicial probe should be ordered. Throwing stones at Chinamma is a political ploy. We are not bothered. We also want this. Regarding the residence (Jaya’s home), the government has got no rights to do it. This will lead to legal problems,” says Vetrivel.

But the stated goal of converting Jaya’s home into a memorial is a step by EPS to distance himself from the Sasikala family as the family was so far in control of this home, feels political analyst Sumanth Raman.

“EPS has to move quickly in terms of the merger, because the more time he gives, the greater opportunity TTV gets to attract more MLAs,” Raman points out.

Which takes us back to the question – what’s with the urgency? What changed in the last 15 days that has given both EPS and OPS the jitters? Was it just one rally by TTV?

Radhakrishnan says no. “It's not the huge rally that pushed EPS into this decision. It is the backroom manoeuvres that TTV was engaging in, with another political party that pushed him to finally act,” he says.

TTV, incidentally, was in Bengaluru on Thursday when the EPS announcement came. He is in Bengaluru to try and meet his aunt Sasikala on Friday to discuss political developments, even as he gets ready for his next rally on August 23.

Over the last few weeks, the BJP has also been watching every development with a hawk eye, biding its time and its moves for a foray into Tamil Nadu.

The buzz in the BJP was that the party could look at projecting Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, its most articulate spokesperson who hails from Madurai, as a possible TN face for the BJP. Why else would she intercede on behalf of the Tamil Nadu government in the contentious NEET issue for medical admissions?

But in Tamil Nadu, where it is usually a toss-up between the two regional parties – the DMK and the AIADMK – it would take quite a bit of time before the BJP can claim to make any inroads. The BJP is a patient party – it can wait however long it may take. That is perhaps why it was cultivating an interest in the happenings in both the EPS and the OPS camps – the PM himself giving them equal audience every now and then.

The BJP is biding its time – not too soon, not too fast, before it can look at a sizeable vote-share in a State where it has no MLAs. Perhaps a fall of the United-ADMK government before the 2019 Lok SAbha election will suit it best.

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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