AIADMK, the story so far

A stopgap Chief Minister who became unstoppable

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam at the Jayalalithaa memorial in Chennai.  

Overnight on Tuesday, an unlikely hero was born in Tamil Nadu. He rose from the ashes of a pliant, acquiescent man, even genuflecting man.

The metamorphosis of O. Panneerselvam was spectacular as it was unexpected, or perhaps because it was unexpected.

After 40 minutes of absolute stillness at the memorial of his leader and former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, Mr. Panneerselvam arose, to turn on his recent past and to plunge the knife in, and twist it, repeatedly, on the current leadership in the AIADMK and its general secretary.

The Brutus who was swayed into assassinating Caesar, if you will. But in his address to the media later, the veritable Mark Antony delivered a dignified funeral oration that turned the public tide against AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala, and those on her side. The task was half done for him though.

For those in Tamil Nadu, popular animosity against Ms. Sasikala, particularly since Sunday when she put her hand up for the post of the leader of the legislature party, was quite palpable.

While her ministers, including Mr. Panneerselvam, and MLAs stuck by her, it was clear that public sentiment, for whatever it was worth, weighed overwhelmingly against her.

People thought the act smacked of naked ambition, and that the urgency of it all was suspect.

They said as much on social media. Be that as it may, it did seem that there were no illegalities involved, and nothing stood in the path of Ms. Sasikala’s anointment as chief minister. Until Tuesday night that is.

Mr. Panneerselvam’s announcement at his leader’s memorial, where he invoked her spirit, threw a spanner into the works.

As he spoke slowly, deliberately and in a dignified manner, the details of the palace intrigue emerged, and the plot unravelled.

He spoke sedately of the humiliation heaped on him, and the persistent efforts to hustle him to propose Ms. Sasikala’s name to the position of, firstly, the general secretary of the party, and subsequently, the Chief Minister of the State, and the involvement of other ministers and some members of her family in this. All of this, he did with a smile.

When the insider speaks

This is precisely why Mr. Panneerselvam emerged a hero with his daring act of rebellion.

Here was the insider, the abider who was now rebelling, threatening to tell all, and invoking both the name and spirit of Jayalalithaa.

Years of lack of transparency, and cloak and dagger politics have left the public of the State thirsty for information on the internal workings of the party, and the government. It helped that he countered accusations made against him with dignity, a mild disposition and even a smile.

On Ms. Sasikala’s charge that she had spotted him smiling at the Opposition leader in the Assembly, he deftly feinted, and then lunged forward with the riposte about how the ability to smile distinguished the humans from animals.

People instantly seized on this lone voice of dissent, charmed by his gentlemanly opposition, smiling countenance, swayed by his controlled aggression, and they tweeted his statements, pushing them to the viral zone, building a shrine for him on social media.

On his pedestal now, Mr. Panneerselvam will be judged constantly; people’s expectations of him will mount even as he will remain restricted by the numbers game; he will be under pressure to sustain his new persona.

A metamorphosis, after all, can often be traumatic for the one that undergoes it. In a non-Kafkaesque universe, however, we just might write an ending that is not inevitably tragic.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 3:20:32 AM |

In Depth
Tamil Nadu Speaker disqualifies 18 dissident AIADMK MLAs
19 pro-Dhinakaran MLAs withdraw support to Palaniswami
AIADMK factions bury the hatchet
Former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa stepping out of her house in Poes Garden. File photo
T.N. to probe Jayalalithaa’s death
Betrayal has aligned with betrayal, says Dhinakaran
The Dhinakaran rebellion: Decoding the loyalty factor
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palanisami and Deputy CM O. Paneerselvam visit former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's memorial after announcing the merger of the two warring AIADMK factions.
AIADMK after Jayalalithaa: from a split to merger in six months
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palanisami and Deputy CM O. Paneerselvam visit former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's memorial after announcing the merger of the two warring AIADMK factions.
As it happened: AIADMK factions merge, OPS is Deputy CM
AIADMK merger: Panneerselvam is Deputy CM, gets finance portfolio
In final push for merger, Sasikala may be sidelined on Monday
Talks on merger move a step forward, says Panneerselvam
No link between TN Govt and AIADMK, says Dhinakaran
20 MLAs, six MPs attend Dhinakaran’s rally in Melur
Party organ republishes Sasikala’s plea for unity
AIADMK group to move away from Sasikala
Edapaddi camp questions Dhinakaran’s appointments
Dhinakaran announces new office-bearers, set to tour T.N.
Arukutty now in Edappadi camp
Panneerselvam disbands AIADMK merger panel
‘Edappadi should come clean on links with Sasikala family’
Dhinakaran camp continues to chip away at Edappadi camp
Money laundering case against Dhinakaran
T.T.V. Dhinakaran arrested for bid to bribe poll panel
Edappadi camp rejects OPS faction’s preconditions for merger
OPS camp talks tough, sets preconditions for merger
As AIADMK Amma decides to oust TTV Dhinakaran, 6 MLAs meet him
T.T.V. Dhinakaran during a poll campaign in Chennai
T.T.V. Dhinakaran charged with bid to bribe poll panel
EC cancels RK Nagar bypoll
RK Nagar nomination papers
Key candidates in R.K. Nagar by-election
Sasikala faction is 'AIADMK Amma' and OPS' 'AIADMK Puratchi Thalaivi Amma'
MPs belonging to the Sasikala faction leaving the Election Commission on Wednesday.
EC freezes 'two leaves' for R.K. Nagar bypoll
Deepa launches party
Edappadi Palaniswami wins floor test
Chief Minsiter Edappadi K. Palaniswami arriving at the Golden Bay Resorts in Koovathur.
After swearing-in, CM, most MLAs return to Koovathur resort
Edappadi Palaniswami sworn in as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister
MLAs at resort ‘shielded’ from media, visitors
Madhusudhanan asks EC to reject Sasikala’s election as party chief
AIADMK power struggle: Movers and shakers
130 AIADMK MLAs "free and safe in MLA hostel at Chepauk"
You are reading
A stopgap Chief Minister who became unstoppable
AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala leaves after paying her tributes at the Jayalalithaa memorial, in Chennai on Thursday.
Sasikala stakes claim, all eyes on Governor
Panneerselvam dismisses Sasikala’s charge of DMK conspiracy
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam speaking to mediapersons on Wednesday.
Judicial inquiry will be ordered into Jayalalithaa's death: Panneerselvam
Tamil Nadu CM O. Panneerselvam at the Jayalalithaa memorial
OPS revolts, says he was forced to quit
Decks cleared for Sasikala as Governor accepts Pannerselvam’s resignation
AIADMK functionaries greet AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala at the party headquarters in Chennai on Sunday.
Sasikala set to become Tamil Nadu Chief Minister
Sasikala Pushpa writes to EC on Sasikala Natarajan’s appointment as AIADMK general secretary
A banner placed outside the AIADMK general council meeting venue mentioning V.K. Sasikala as the party's general secretary, on Thursday.
V.K. Sasikala appointed as AIADMK general secretary
Sasikala takes over as AIADMK general secretary
O. Panneerselvam sworn in as Chief Minister
Jayalalithaa is no more
Next Story