Fusion and fission: On AIADMK merger

New fault lines have formed in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu. When the factions led by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam agreed on the merger, they must have hoped it would lead to a period of political stability and an unrivalled claim to power. Instead, they are now faced with a new pressure group led by T.T.V. Dhinakaran, nephew of the polarising figure that is V.K. Sasikala, who is serving a four-year sentence in the disproportionate assets case. By making the isolation of the Sasikala family a pre-condition for the merger, the Panneerselvam faction appears to have left Mr. Palaniswami on shaky ground. While Mr. Dhinakaran was not against the merger per se, he and his kin have not taken kindly to the depiction of the political reunion as a logical outcome of popular aversion to the Sasikala family. The merger and the retrieval of the election symbol of Two Leaves were seen as political necessities, but not the insistence of the Panneerselvam faction on carrying on a political campaign almost entirely on an anti-Sasikala platform. Though Mr. Palaniswami managed to defer a decision on expelling Sasikala until after the convening of a general council meeting, in the popular imagination the merger was made possible only by the sidelining of the Sasikala family. To retain their relevance, Mr. Dhinakaran and other members of the family were forced to coalesce into an opposing group.

With the support of 19 legislators, Mr. Dhinakaran is in a position to bring down the government. However, rather than project his opposition as another split in the party, he is keen to fight the battle from within. The proposal to pitch the Speaker, P. Dhanapal, as the group’s choice of Chief Minister to replace Mr. Palaniswami is part of an attempt to reassert control over the party and the government. Even now, many ministers in the Palaniswami cabinet are Sasikala loyalists; they are held together only by their desire to avoid a snap election just one year into the term of the Assembly. Given the mood of the government at the Centre and the interests of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao might not act in a hurry on the plea by the MLAs supporting Mr. Dhinakaran and order Mr. Palaniswami to go through a floor test. Indeed, the best course in the current muddled circumstances would be to let matters take their own course and allow any oppositional group to move a motion of no confidence against the government. The Dhinakaran group would like a change at the helm, but would not like to be seen as joining hands with the Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and forcing a snap election. In such a situation, the proper forum for a change of leadership is a meeting of the AIADMK’s legislature party, not the Raj Bhavan, and not the floor of the Assembly. At least, not yet.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 11:03:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/fusion-and-fission/article19541330.ece

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