Why is the AIADMK still in a crisis?

Updated - December 04, 2021 10:46 pm IST

Published - February 18, 2017 11:39 pm IST

What happened after Jayalalithaa’s death?

Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa died on December 5, 2016 , without naming a successor, just like her mentor M.G. Ramachandran. All hell was expected to break loose, but that did not happen. The party made a safe choice with O. Panneerselvam, who had served as a stop-gap Chief Minister twice before, to pick up the reins again.

In an out-of-the way, post-midnight swearing-in ceremony early on December 6, Mr. Panneerselvam took the oath and became the Chief Minister for the third time.

What are the circumstances of Panneerselvam’s rebellion?

Mr. Panneerselvam ruled the State, which saw several turbulent events, including a severe cyclone and the massive jallikattu protests, for two months. Then, the general council of the party elected interim general secretary Sasikala as head of the AIADMK legislature party and picked her to be the Chief Minister. Mr. Panneerselvam signed a letter resigning as Chief Minister to give way to Ms. Sasikala as he was expected to. Two days later, however, Mr. Panneerselvam, invoking the spirit of Jayalalithaa, did the unthinkable — he rebelled. He claimed he had been forced to resign by Ms. Sasikala and her family members. He formed a rebel unit and invited AIADMK MLAs to join him to take forward the vision of Jayalalithaa.

How did AIADMK party members react?

Mr. Panneerselvam’s rebellion shook up the AIADMK, but the bulk of the MLAs stayed with Ms. Sasikala. About 10 MLAs and 12 MPs joined Mr. Panneerselvam. Though he enjoyed public support, he did not have the numbers.

What will be the impact of Ms. Sasikala’s conviction?

As Ms. Sasikala waited for an invitation from the Governor to form the government, the Supreme Court delivered the final verdict in the disproportionate assets case, convicting her. The party appeared to be ready for such an eventuality. Overnight, the party chose Edappadi K. Palaniswami as the Chief Minister instead of Ms. Sasikala, a master stroke, in terms of acceptability among the party cadre. The next day, before she left for Bengaluru to begin a four-year jail term, she readmitted two of her nephews who had been removed from the party — T.T.V. Dinakaran and S. Venkatesh — into the AIADMK fold, making Dinakaran the deputy general secretary. Mr. Panneerselvam has vowed to bring down this ‘anti-people’ government and restore Jayalalithaa’s legacy in the State.

Who is likely to lead the party in the absence of Sasikala? Who are the next rung of leaders? Can they take the party forward?

Sasikala created the impression that her proximity to Jayalalithaa over three decades gave her the moral right to take forward her agenda for the State. By placing Mr. Dinakaran as deputy general secretary, she hopes to maintain a hold on the party by proxy, as she serves out her sentence.

AIADMK members say Mr. Dinakaran is an amiable man and has a connect with the cadre. Mr. Palaniswami, long-time party faithful K.A. Sengottaiyan and senior MP M.Thambidurai are also likely to play a key role in shaping the future of the AIADMK.

Will the AIADMK be able to serve out the remaining four years of its tenure?

Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao swore in Mr. Palaniswami as Chief Minister, based on the letter of support he produced from 124 MLAs. Mr. Palaniswami and his Cabinet have tough times ahead. Their primary challenge will be to keep the flock together that has, for years, been charmed to discipline by the charisma of its larger-than-life leaders MGR and Jayalalithaa. Mr. Palaniswami won the vote of confidence with 122 votes on a day when the Assembly witnessed great violence.


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