The AIADMK crisis: who'll take the party forward?

Growing support for OPS derailed Sasikala camp's plans

AIADMK MLAs welcome party general secretary V.K. Sasikala as she arrives for a meeting in Chennai on Saturday.  

At her impromptu press conference outside the Poes residence of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Saturday, V.K. Sasikala’s stance had clearly changed. While her tone and pitch remained unwavering as usual, her stance and words had changed. Couched in that monotone was a threat that very few missed: “We can be patient only up to a point. Beyond that we will do what is necessary,” she said, leaving the threat hanging in the air.

At whom it was aimed, or its consequences, were unclear, but it was easy to see that Ms. Sasikala was getting antsy — after all it has been a week since she submitted to the Governor that she had been elected leader of the AIADMK legislative party. Without a call as yet from Tamil Nadu Governor to form the government, it is probably natural that she feels edgy, but issuing a threat like that only smacks of her political naiveté, and gives the impression that here is a lady who is used to getting her way.

In the normal course, the Governor is expected to invite in quick time the leader elected by members of a party with a majority to form the government. But without doubt, in this case, the Governor is ostensibly slowing down in his tracks, pausing to consider the verdict in the disproportionate assets cases that is imminent. Meanwhile, Mr. Panneerselvam seems to be drawing MLAs, who originally swore allegiance to her. Given the special circumstance, Ms. Sasikala’s impatience at getting at the throne seems petulant and tacky.

By the looks of it, this was a well-thought out rise to power. Her path had been etched out and everything was expected to fall into place. It was Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam who did not play by the book. His rebellion, and uncharacteristic decision to be a political opportunist, was completely unexpected and it derailed the best made plans of the Sasikala camp.

In his revelations, Mr. Panneerselvam alleged that a member of her family had indicated that everyone but Ms. Sasikala had benefitted after Jayalalithaa’s death, while he cadged for the post of general secretary for her. With no counter to this from her side, it is difficult to dismiss the charge outright. She herself, in her interview to a TV channel, claimed that it was her MLAs who decided, after two months, that it was time for Mr. Panneerselvam to make way for her as the CM.

Significantly, it is not the first time that she is invoking the word ‘patience’. She has used it before, just days ago to indicate she had faith in the Governor, that he would call her to form the government. Within days, her short speech on Saturday indicated that she had reached the end of her tether, unmindful that politics is scarcely a 20-20 cricket game.

In fact, it’s the longest form of the game, and skill and experience help players negotiate the rough patches, and prolong their stay on the pitch. Sledging happens, as a matter of routine, but strong opponents do not let it affect their game. Impatience is not a virtue in politics, generally, though Mr. Panneerselvam has converted it to his advantage this time.

Popularity dips

If it were even possible, as a result of her indiscretion on Saturday, Ms. Sasikala’s popularity meter took a further dip, her aggression against the State angering the people and adding more grist to the mill of those ranged against her in rebellion.

Singai G. Ramachandran, the AIADMK’s former IT wing secretary, who currently is managing Mr. Panneerselvam’s online presence, says that immediately after the statement on Saturday morning, there was a huge backlash on Twitter.

“A lot of people were clearly angry with the comment and took to social media to express their unhappiness.”

It is impossible to overlook the fact that it was after her deliberate threat, made without a thought to the enormity of its implications, that senior leader C.Ponnaiyan jumped ship to the rival camp. Seasoned politicians find it incredible that she had actually issued a threat, and dared to challenge the State, even as she remains, as of now, an extraconstitutional authority. V. Maitreyan, AIADMK MP in the Rajya Sabha, says, “Till yesterday, she was threatening her MLAs, today it is the Governor. The indications are that her team might create a law and order problem in the State. I urge the Prime Minister and President of the country to take notice of this, and act against her.”

If Ms. Sasikala is to last this bout at least until the bell, she would do well to commandeer patience — a lot of it.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 1:49:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/Growing-support-for-OPS-derailed-Sasikala-camps-plans/article17290239.ece

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