Indian factional politics: DMK, BJP to cash in the AIADMK split in Tamil Nadu!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Factional politics in India has its own disadvantages and maybe a few advantages too. But generally people suffer due to factionalism in parties.
Factional politics within the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu is becoming murkier and dirtier day by day and any onlooker would feel the party is on the verge of total collapse, giving rise to an imminent government replacement by the opposition DMK.
After the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in December 2016, the AIADMK has essentially fractured into two. The chief of the party and close aide of the former Chief Minister, Sasikala tried to get the Chief Ministership from Panneerselvam before her conviction in a corruption case. However, before her incarceration, Sasikala appointed Edapadi Palaniswami as (EPS) the Chief Minister Sasikala was promoting her relatives and close peole in the party and government, including Dinakaran whom she made her deputy in the party. He went to jail for bribing for getting the party symbol for his faction.
After the trust vote in the Tamil Nadu assembly in February, which was won by the faction led by E Palaniswami, what followed was chaos in the House with the DMK alleging that the trust vote was rigged. The DMK leader MK Stalin moved the High Court for a new trust vote and this demand was dismissed. An investigative report by Times Now found that money was paid to sway votes. The money was paid in the resort where the MLAs were kept by the Sasikala camp. The news outlet along with Moon TV conducted sting operations on two AIADMK MLAs.
At a meeting organized in Thiruverkadu in Chennai’s suburbs, Panneerselvam said, “Wherever we went, people say there is no need for merger. They are people of Tamil Nadu, particularly women, students, youth, people who are neutral, even the media.
The political churn witnessed by ¬Tamil Nadu since Jayalalitha’s death in December 2016 has now thrown up a new political offering—a third faction of the AIADMK led by Dhinakaran, deputy general secretary and Sasikala’s nephew. Dhinakaran wants to take complete control of the party machinery and manage the government through remote control. He claims to have the support of 40 MLAs.
In an interview to the same newspaper, a party member Madhusudanan of OPS faction said, “The war between Edappadi Palanisamy and Dhinakaran is a drama. They are staging this drama to weaken our faction. It is a well laid out plan and this drama is an outcome of that. But they fail to realize about the reality that they will themselves get eliminated in this process.”
In the precarious equilibrium brought about by Dhinakaran’s re-entry into the scene, EPS is happy with the status quo; OPS remains a passive onlooker. With a little help from the Centre, which would only be keen to put its foot down ahead of the presidential election, EPS and OPS can sweep the differences under the carpet and stay steady. Palaniswami has been able to keep his ministers in line.
Both factions of the AIADMK are under compulsion to merge. Unity moves continue without any direction. The never ending saga has taken another turn, when O Panneerselvam (OPS), the leader of the rebel camp in the AIADMK dissolved the seven member committee he had set up to work out modalities for merger of the two rival factions within the party.
The tug of war in Tamil Nadu politics could become an all out ‘political drama’ during the time of the Presidential elections. With leaders from Edappadi Palanisamy camp like K T Rajendra Balaji declaring that there was nothing wrong in supporting the BJP, the camp seems to have already made up its mind. There’s more and more muck coming out against their alleged thuggery during the Jaya rule, which incidentally also dents the latter’s legacy, and a number of their illegally procured assets are being confiscated by the government based on the trial court order in the disproportionate assets case.
The BJP is looking to exploit the vacuum created by Jaya’s absence, and matinee idol and forever-political-debutant Rajinikanth seems to be preparing the path for them. For the BJP, a weak and splintered AIADMK is necessary for it to find its foot in the door. If the factions of the AIADMK come together, it would squeeze out the BJP from whatever little space it has gained in the last few months.
Tamil Nadu state governor cannot dismiss the Palanisamy led government simply because it has got the number- a simple majority on its own in the assembly. Moreover no one can say that the government is not functioning or it is corrupt. So far the TN government is not facing any such serious issues. The usual corruption is prevalent as Indian system allows that in a tacit manner.
Of course, the government is not fully legitimate as Sasikala has indeed captured the party and government and put in place a proxy government under Palanisamy.
As it appears the Palanisamy leadership does not want to quit or hand over power to Jayalithaa’s favorite and former CM O. Panneerselvam and it can wait for the next election at least in RK Nagar constituency in the state capital which had elected Jayalithaa twice to decide their future course. May be O. Panneerselvam team also looks forwards to the judgment of RK Nagar to chart out its next move.
Meanwhile, both factions are fighting in the media to showcase their importance among the people of the state, engaged in mudsling activities in order to make claims as the real AIADMK and for criticizing one another.
EPS and OPS factions are also fighting to regain the party symbol- Two Leaves to claim as the real party eligible to rule the state.
As the factional politics within the ruling AIADMk continues unabated without any sincere effort for credible patch up by making compromises as followers of MGR-Jaya, two parties are expected to reap the benefits – DMK and BJP. DMK has ruled the state alternatively alongside the AIADMK while the BJP which has no real influence in the state but has won seats to assembly and parliament seats from the state by aligning with Dravidian parties DMK or AIADMk alternatively. But in the last Assembly poll, Jayalithaa refused to have any truck with BJP while DMK formed a strong profitable alliance with Congress party. BJP, like many other state parties like PMK, DMDK, and MDMK etc could not win even one seat to Tamil Nadu assembly. This exposed the real position of BJP in the state.
Jayalithaa and her AIADMK returned to power for second term for the first time in years. CM Jayalalithaa’s sudden death under mysterious circumstances has caused serious existential crisis for the party which her friend Sasikala exploited to become the General Secretary of the party but her ambition to be the CM of the state could not be materialized as the court sent her to jail for her serious corruption operations from the Poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa. She hurriedly arranged for the swearing in ceremony at the Madras University campus but Governor refused to attend the function as the Supreme Court judgment was forthcoming in days and it sure that she would be punished. Sasikala, knowing the judgment beforehand, still wanted to be the CM at least for a few days so that she could enjoy the special privileges in the jail as Jayalalithaa did. It should be mentioned here that during her life time, Jayalalithaa had never given her “friend” Sasikala any position in the party or government as she was busy making wealth and money by illegal means.
Already the DMK working president and former Deputy CM MK Stalin has hinted that his party would soon replace the AIADMK at the Madras Fort and provide a clean government.
A week after TTV Dhinakaran made it clear that he will fight for his position in AIADMK, it is unclear where the party goes from here. Speaking to India Today, a minister named Jayakumar, a finance minister said, “We are in for a merger because that’s what lakhs of cadres of the AIADMK want. We want a united party that can work together to carry forward Amma’s legacy.”
Panneerselvam held a press conference at his residence in which he said, “MLAs in our group will be meeting at 9am on June 14. We will discuss issues, especially those in which people have been affected, and raise it in the assembly seeking an answer from the government. We will not fail in our responsibility to the people.”
Unless the AIADMK factions also think along these lines, they must quickly come together forgetting their enmity as Sasikala era is deemed to be over now.
They could think of unity measures to rule the state as people had voted for the party and Jayalalithaa. A way forward is cultivation of mutual understanding between the factions and they must behave as one party to face the new challenges.
As for as government and party are concerned , of course, a man with popular acceptance should be chosen as CM and OPS could help improve the credibility of the party, while Palanisamy could be made the General secretary of the party as he has shown rare courage in getting the Sasikala banners removed from the party head quarters.
Other issues like ministers and other importance positions in the party and government could be sorted out in due course. A party’s General meeting needs to be convened to discuss the issues and find solutions.
Tamils have given mandate to the AIADMk for quarreling and creating uncertainty. . Uncertainty is harmful for the ruling party and state.
Only a united party and government can fulfill the poll pledges given to the people and also to get from the federal government the state’s legitimate requirements.
Time is indeed running out for AIADMK.