AIADMK is still a rudderless ship
Chennai: J Jayalalithaa was not called Iron Lady for nothing. Two
years after her passing, the AIADMK, the party she nurtured and led with a
firm grip for close to three decades, remains rudderless.
While splits and mergers do happen after the demise of a tall leader, it remains unresolved in the case of the AIADMK, even after two years. Part of the blame should go to Jayalalithaa herself for not grooming a successor, thereby leaving the ground wide open for several claimants and opportunistic dealings.
In her death, Jayalalithaa not only left behind a void, but also lots of power for the party’s unexposed second rung leaders to haggle over. Fifty MPs (including expelled Sasikala Pushpa) and a six-month old state government with a majority of its own was more than what the present leadership could handle.
While the successors — O Panneerselvam and Edappadi K Palaniswami — have managed to retain a bulk of that, theirs has been a never-ending struggle to hold on to power. With little time for them to focus on anything else, the party is in disarray. Today, there are several claimants for Jayalalithaa’s legacy. The foremost being T T V Dhinakaran from the V K Sasikala clan — expelled from the party by OPS and EPS, post the merger of their factions.
On Wednesday, Dhinakaran too will lead a procession to Jayalalithaa’s memorial in the city to observe her second death anniversary. His procession too starts from the same place from where the ruling party will begin its ritual march, half an hour earlier.
Riding high on the RK Nagar bypoll victory, he has steadily been expanding his base across the state. While he has not been able to bring down the government, due to disqualification of his support group of 18 MLAs, that does not stop him from creating waves among the cadres. "The bulk of the AIADMK cadres are with us and only those in power and position are with them (AIADMK). The rest of the cadres too will come over to our side after the polls," TTV keeps repeating at every public meeting.
And then you also have the expelled AIADMK leader K C Palanisamy, who has been campaigning to restore the basic tenet of the party — the general secretary to be elected by the primary members. "Let the government face its consequence. We want the AIADMK to be revived and we are sure Amma’s (Jayalalithaa) soul will guide us," KCP says in a video, circulated to cadres on the eve of her death anniversary. "This is not Amma’s government. She stood for the state’s interests. The present rulers have sacrificed the state’s interests for their selfish motives. This is a slave government being ruled from Delhi," Palanisamy told TOI.
It is not just expelled leaders, those within the party are also echoing this. "Two years after the death of Amma, the party leaders are scared of meeting the people. They have successfully staved off the need to conduct local body polls and went to the extent of using a ‘monsoon’ card to postpone bypolls in Tiruvarur and Thiruparankundram. Unfortunately for them, they cannot postpone the Lok Sabha polls. If it was within their realm of reality, they probably would have done that too," a senior AIADMK leader, who did not want to be named, lamented.
According to him, they are afraid of meeting people even during calamities and ministers are being driven out from the affected areas. The CM and deputy CM could only do a short aerial survey. They followed it by visiting a few select places by road.
"They have to necessarily meet the people for the Lok Sabha polls and the bypolls for 20 assembly segments. The writing on the wall is clear. If not earlier, the state will face assembly elections in 2019 and the hard-earned power, which was Amma’s gift to the party before she passed away, will be lost for ever," the leader said.
However, a senior leader of AIADMK and party’s spokesman C Ponnaiyan remains unperturbed.
"The party founded by MGR and nurtured by Amma has consolidated very well now. The two factions have merged for the betterment and growth of the party. It is a cadre-based party and will continue to thrive," says Ponnaiyan.
The government is functioning well and its benefits are reaching the common man. It is only the Opposition that is creating trouble by indulging in false propaganda, he said adding, "This is by and large a clean government".
Ponnaiyan’s arguments don’t cut much ice with political analysts. "AIADMK today is a ship without a captain. It is a mass-based party and reigned by mass leaders like MGR and Jayalalithaa in the past. A dual leadership will never work in any organization and it has been proved here too. Jayalalithaa stood for the interest of Tamil Nadu. Whatever she did has been undone by these two leaders (EPS & OPS)," says analyst Tharasu Shyam.