In Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK is distanced from political reality

An AIADMK supporter at the memorial of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa near the Marina Beach in Chennai on December 5, 2021, her fifth death anniversary.   | Photo Credit: PTi

When a political party loses power after a long innings, internal churning is inevitable. But, in the case of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the process began exactly five years ago even when it was in power, following the death of the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. Since then, there have been many dramatic turns, including former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam’s revolt against former interim General Secretary of the party, V.K. Sasikala, in February 2017, the subsequent split in the party, and the merger of the groups, led by Mr. Panneerselvam and the then Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami in August 2017. The merger, coupled with the support of the BJP-led government at the Centre, ensured that the AIADMK government led by Mr. Palaniswami completed its term. But whether the party has remained a cohesive force post-Jayalalithaa is anybody’s guess.

Lack of cohesion

The party’s alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the 2021 Assembly polls also aggravated the problem of lack of cohesion in the light of the BJP’s adherence to Hindutva, a line of thinking not compatible with the political reality of Tamil Nadu. It was for this reason that Jayalalithaa had consciously avoided the BJP for seat sharing during the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2016 Assembly polls after drawing a blank in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

In Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK is distanced from political reality

In contrast, the party’s principal adversary, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which also witnessed the transition of power from M. Karunanidhi to his son and Chief Minister M.K. Stalin more or less around the same time, has managed to remain a well-knit organisation. So much so that the DMK and its allies such as the Congress and the Left, won a landslide victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and bagged two-thirds (159) of the seats in the 2021 Assembly election.

The AIADMK’s electoral debacle brought to the fore the tenuous relationship between Mr. Panneerselvam and Mr. Palaniswami. It took two meetings to elect the latter as leader of the legislature party and more than a month to nominate other office-bearers. What has become a norm in the party is the practice of the two leaders issuing statements separately on issues of public importance.

Sasikala’s return

Defections by middle-level leaders to the ruling DMK and Ms. Sasikala’s return to active politics seem to have precipitated matters in the AIADMK. The BJP, the only remaining partner of the AIADMK with a modest presence, has been projecting itself as a principal political force with its State unit president K. Annamalai launching sharp attacks on the ruling party. Besides, the national party does not mind admitting leaders of its own ally, AIADMK, into its fold.

Notwithstanding its shortcomings, the AIADMK has several strengths such as the presence of an extensive grassroots-level network and the absence of the image of a chauvinistic entity. In the Assembly election, the party got 33.29% of the total votes polled which was short by 4.41% compared to the DMK. Moreover, Mr. Panneerselvam and Mr. Palaniswami seem to have patched up for the time being as they are contesting together for the party posts of coordinator and co-coordinator, the positions being held by them respectively. When a seasoned leader like three-time Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh N. Chandrababu Naidu is struggling to stay relevant in the Opposition, one can understand the plight of the two AIADMK leaders, but what they and others in the party have to realise that it is in their own interest that they remain united and keep the party a force to reckon with in Tamil Nadu politics.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 7:20:12 PM |

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