ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ ITDC NEWS A day after the 'dual leadership' of the AIADMK issued a gag order, warning its party men not to speak on the party’s internal affairs, the power struggle within the organisation has hit a new high. The tug of war between Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and his deputy O. Panneerselvam—about who should take control of the party—has come out in the open again.
Over a year ago, the AIADMK’s political twins with rhyming initials—EPS and OPS—seemed to be fighting hard to dump the differences between them. However, now, the murmurs within the AIADMK of party seniors demanding a charismatic and an authoritative single leadership, like the structure that existed under former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, has ignited a raging fire.
And this time, the voices are more stronger, demanding that the 'dual leadership' be shunned and “a single and strong leader” be elected to lead the party successfully.
“We have lost in the election. We need a self-evaluation. We need a single, strong leader,” said V.V. Rajan Chellappa, senior AIADMK leader and former minister, from Madurai. Chellappa is a MLA from the Madurai North constituency. His son, Raj Sathyen, fought the Lok Sabha elections from the Madurai constituency against the CPI(M)’s Su Venkatesan and lost.
Meanwhile, in nearby Theni constituency, the home bastion of O. Panneerselvam, the latter’s son, O.P. Raveendranath Kumar, registered a big victory. Raveendranath is the only MP elected from the AIADMK alliance. In fact, there were reports on how Panneerselvam camped in Delhi to secure a cabinet berth or at least a minister of state post for his son in the Narendra Modi government.
Hours after Chellappa commented about the party’s near-rout in the recent Lok Sabha polls, R.T. Ramachandran from Kunnam in Permabalur district also spoke to the media to talk on the consequences of the dual leadership in the AIADMK.
“It has not brought any benefit to the party,” he said. “The party should be led by one person and it should not go into the hands of one family again. If anyone tries to control the party with the family, their fate will be like that of [V.K.] Sasikala,” Ramachandran warned.
There are murmurs within the party that Panneerselvam's effort to secure a cabinet berth for his son has led to the new voices of dissent and AIADMK party insiders say that the rift between the two leaders has widened. Rajan Chellappa and Ramachandran, both considered senior leaders, have 'indirectly' thrown their weight behind Palaniswami. Sources say that these senior leaders feel the chief minister should be the party leader, like how it was under Jayalalithaa and MGR.
Clarifying on the statements made by the party seniors, AIADMK spokesperson and Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar told the media that time will only decide on “single leadership for the party”. Answering questions from reporters, Jayakumar said, “there is no confusion or rift in the party. It is created by outsiders who want our party to fall.”
Meanwhile, AIADMK MPs, MLAs and district secretaries are all set to meet at the party office on June 12 to discuss the Lok Sabha debacle and the future of the AIADMK. After the merger of factions in August 2017, it was decided to constitute a 11-member steering committee to run the party.
The committee, apart from coordinator Panneerselvam, joint coordinator Palaniswami and additional coordinators K.P. Munusamy and Vaithialingam, is yet to find other members. It is said that the AIADMK could not arrive at a consensus in appointing the members, as the demands of the party leaders were very 'tall'. Also, the Lok Sabha drubbing seems to have come in handy for supporters of Palaniswami to throw their weight behind him, saying that a single leadership under him can alone lead the party to victory.