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Politics & Governance

Has Tamil Nadu CM Palaniswami queered the pitch by patching up with Paneerselvam

The highly polarising V K Sasikala being divested of the position as the all powerful general secretary of the ruling AIADMK. 

Even though who takes control of the ruling AIADMK is not yet over nearly ten months after the death of chief minister J Jayalalithaa, it had become critical to see the back of the highly polarising figure of the interim general secretary of the party V K Sasikala along with her nephew T T K Dhinakaran.  

This became possible thanks to the factions of Tamil Nadu chief minister E Palaniswami and deputy chief minister O Paneerselvam coming together. The Madras High Court rejected the plea of Dhinakaran’s third faction to ban the party’s general council meeting scheduled last Tuesday where it overwhelmingly removed Sasikala and Dhinakaran as the powerful office bearers of the AIADMK. 

Soon after Amma’s death on December fifth last year (2016), Sasikala as the spearhead of the Mannargudi clan having a firm grip over Jayalalithaa’s internal and personal affairs, had her way in getting appointed as the party supremo. As a close friend of Jayalalithaa for nearly three decades she has played a major role in the affairs of the AIADMK. 

Sasikala was hell bent on becoming the chief minister but the Supreme Court intervened which saw her going to jail to serve a four year conviction in a disproportionate assets case. The break with Sasikala is now a reality. 

With the BJP keen on enlarging the saffron brigade’s presence in the south and particularly in Tamil Nadu, it played its part in bringing the Palaniswamy and Paneerselvam factions together along with ensuring that the AIADMK becomes a part of the NDA. 

Both Palaniswami and Panerselvam have met Prime Minister Narendra Modi separately on a few occasions in the national capital  as BJP strategists believe a foot hold in Tamil Nadu will facilitate the Lotus party enlarge its arithmetic in the next Lok Sabha elections barely 18 months away in 2019. 

BJP president Amit Shah has already fixed a target of 350 seats for the saffron brigade in the 543-member Lok Sabha. In the 2014 general elections the Lotus party had secured a majority of 282 seats on its own for the first time since it was formed in 1980.   

With Dhinakaran continuing to claim the support of no less than 18 legislators, he has accused chief minister Palaniswamy of sending cops to the resort in Coorg in neighbouring Karnataka to brow beat the legislators to switch loyalties. While threatening legal action, Dhinakaran alleged that the officers in the police team even offered the MLAs Rs 15 crores to Rs 20 crores.  

The AIADMK will be run by OPS as the chief coordinator with EPS as the second-in-command. With no love lost they will be looking over each other’s shoulder all the time. The sacking and isolation of Sasikala will lend greater political legitimacy to the ruling party’s claim of being truly representative of the party’s organisational support base. 

What is significant is that the AIADMK will no longer be remote controlled by the so called Mannargudi mafia,  the village from where Sasikala hails.  

The newly evolved collective leadership of the AIADMK has also abolished the all powerful post of general secretary. The 18 odd legislators with Dhinakaran is enough to pull down the Palaniswami government. At the same time they have refrained from forming themselves into a breakaway group for fear of being disqualified. 

Any kind of reconciliation at this juncture is ruled out. A large number of legislators who were present and voted at the AIADMK general council meeting earlier in the week on September 12 made it clear their stand was to snuff out “any influence of Sasikala or her family in both the party and the government”.  

The OPS-EPS combine is tantalisingly one or two short of a majority in the 234-member Tamil Nadu assembly with two seats being vacant. Amid the continuing political uncertainty in the AIADMK, the DMK believes that the ball is in the court of the Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, who has been given additional charge of Tamil Nadu along with Maharashtra. 

The Governor has told the opposition leaders that he cannot intervene at this juncture as it is an “internal issue of the ruling party.” DMK’s Stalin has drawn attention to approaching the court if the Governor fails to ask the chief minister to prove his majority on the floor of the assembly as envisaged in the 1994 S R Bommai judgement. 

Any reconciliation is virtually impossible even though Sasikala has not been expelled from the AIADMK. With more than three years left for their five-year term term to end, none of the ruling MLAs want a snap poll. 

The instability of the AIADMK government has adversely affected its governance in Tamil Nadu affecting the state’s robust economic growth. Impartial observers believe Palaniswamy might have risked the stability of his own government by patching up with Paneerselvam which has queered the pitch further. 

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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