AIADMK’s ‘two leaves’ will be put to test at RK Nagar bypoll

The AIADMK party symbol in many ways certifies the ruling EPS-OPS faction as ‘original’. The Sasikala faction, by default, loses its ‘credibility’

editorials Updated: Nov 26, 2017 16:42 IST
Hindustan Times
With the AIADMK ‘two leaves’ party symbol with them, the EPS-OPS ruling combine has the advantage(PTI)

Never before have the fortunes of a ruling party in Tamil Nadu, perhaps even in all of India, gone through the roller coaster that those of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) have in the past year. Typically it’s the Opposition that puts the government on the mat, but in the AIADMK’s case, its intra-party wars have been playing out on an endless loop. But this might be over soon.

On December 5 last year, AIADMK leader and Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa died and shortly after that the party split into two factions. Not long after, VK Sasikala, who aspired to replace Amma, as Jayalalithaa was called by her supporters, was jailed in a disproportionate assets case. The bypoll to the RK Nagar assembly seat, left vacant after Jayalalithaa’s demise, was suspended after widespread violations of the electoral code were reported.

However, if there’s one development that had worsened the crisis within the party it was the Election Commission of India’s decision to freeze the AIADMK’s ‘two leaves’ party symbol over which rival factions claimed propriety over.

The symbol is important because party founder and former chief minister, MG Ramachandran, and Jayalalithaa did little to build a robust party with a strong leadership in the second rung. Apart from these two leaders, loyalists identify with little other than the ‘two leaves’.

This why the ECI’s decision last week to allot the ‘two leaves’ to the Edappadi Palaniswami-O Panneerselvam ruling combine because it “enjoys support of majority members in the legislative and organisational wings” is significant.

The party symbol in many ways certifies the ruling faction as the ‘original’. The Sasikala faction, which, by default, loses its credibility, has been facing one setback after another — the arrest of TTV Dinakaran, the suspension of 18 MLAs and even the recent I-T raids. Losing the symbol, however, is the most severe blow so far.

The next test for both the factions will be the RK Nagar bypoll, which will be held on December 21. Can the EPS-OPS combine win with the symbol? Is public mood in favour of the Sasikala faction, which is perceived to be at the receiving end of the government, allegedly backed by the BJP? Given how divided the AIADMK is, will it be easy for the DMK? The RK Nagar bypoll will be a litmus test, based on which the future course of the party, maybe the state, will be decided.

For now, its advantage EPS-OPS.

First Published: Nov 26, 2017 15:45 IST