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Explained: The power struggle between AIADMK's OPS and EPS and what happens next

6 days ago 13

Tamil Nadu politics is witnessing high drama with the Opposition Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) experiencing a power struggle between the camps of Edapaddi Palaniswamy (EPS) and O Panneerselvam (OPS).

The latest twist in the tale came on Thursday when OPS walked out of the party’s general council meeting after it stuck to the single leadership demand and favoured his rival and party joint coordinator Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS).

As EPS was honoured with a crown, a sword and sceptre by supporters amid chants favouring him, OPS along with his supporters including deputy secretary R Vaithilingam moved out of the hall and left the premises. The meet which witnessed chaotic scenes was over within 40 minutes after it started.

B Valarmathi, a senior office-bearer and a former minister, sung a song from party founder M G Ramachandran’s movie and said, ‘a leader will emerge’ apparently hailing EPS. The GC meet, which stuck to the one and only demand of making EPS the supreme party leader, turned out to be a full show of strength of the Palaniswami camp with OPS followers heavily outnumbered.

OPS, as Panneerselvam is known, was seated close to EPS on the dais when the GC burst into the single leadership chorus. The party announced that the GC would again meet on 11 July.

This development came just hours after a division bench of the Madras high court at a hearing in the wee hours of Thursday restrained the party from taking any decision on unitary leadership – a decision that favoured OPS, who’d asked that the meet be prevented and party bylaws not allowed to be amended.

But how did we get here? Let’s take a closer look:

As per News18, the first sign of fomenting trouble was a proclamation by spokesperson D Jayakumar at a press meeting after a meeting of key functionaries last week. He said, rather cryptically, that there have been some voices seeking “single leadership" for the party.

The “we want single leadership" were first raised by EPS loyalists, and this in turn followed by the OPS camp demanding a “unified leadership".

As per News18, the chorus for EPS as party leader has only grown louder. Meanwhile, OPS backers have put up posters claiming their man was handpicked by late AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa.

File photo of late AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa. PTI

Remember, after Jayalalitha’s death the post of general secretary was abolished --  OPS was named the coordinator and EPS the joint coordinator.

However, the EPS side claims that the situation is “confusing the cadres”, as per The Tribune.

What's the BJP angle?

The BJP, which is the AIADMK’s ally, is watching closely.

As per The Tribune, though Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently tried to put an end to the raging debate over the ‘Hindi imposition’, cadres are also believed to be against the alliance with the BJP, especially after the language row, and the general feeling is that the AIADMK should approach the 2024 general election with a clean slate.

AIADMK organisational secretary C Ponnaiyan recently made open accusations against the BJP-led central government. Jayalaithaa’s long-time confidant VK Sasikala is also making the most of the division, taking on the current AIADMK leadership for being a “weak Opposition” to the ruling DMK, as per The Tribune.

File photo of VK Sasikala. Twitter/AIADMKOfficial

What do experts say?

Political analysts see no end to the crisis anytime soon, but caution that the BJP would do well to curb its enthusiasm.

ORF's Sathiya Murthy told News9 that though the AIADMK may appear to be down in the dumps and a party undergoing a leadership crisis, it will still manage to contain the BJP headed by former IPS officer K Annamalai.  "If he and the BJP think that AIADMK is weak and will cede space, both are sadly mistaken. Recent political history of Tamil Nadu is a testimony that both these Dravidian parties – the AIADMK and the DMK – have kept the national parties at bay, and never allowed even the Congress to set its foot again after it was ejected in the late sixties.  Both the DMK and the AIADMK, lost the polls and got decimated in fact, at different times, but still bounced back to power with credible, sweeping victories. In 1996, Jayalalithaa suffered a humiliating defeat but five years later she stormed to power and the DMK too achieved similar victories after defeats."

Professor Ramu Manivannan of Madras University says this situation suits the DMK, which is quietly going ahead in consolidating its position. And what's more, the occasional noises from VK Sasikala, the ousted AIADMK leader and Jayalalithaa's long-time companion, too add spice to the ongoing leadership tussle in the party. “The AIADMK will be in serious trouble if it does not resolve its leadership issue and set its own house in order,” Manivannan told News9.

What next for OPS?

OPS is facing the fight of his political career.

“OPS has lost credibility. I was one of them who supported him during Dharmayudham in February 2017. But he was selfish and did not recognise the efforts of those who were loyal to him including me. His image is now dented and it is time to have EPS as the leader of the party," Ma Foi K Pandiarajan, one of the many loyalists who jumped ship to the EPS camp, told News18.

With inputs from agencies

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