AIADMK changes bylaws to strengthen dual leadership

According to bylaws, the AIADMK’s members of the general council (roughly 3,000 of them) had the power to elect or remove the party leaders
After the change in bylaws, the coordinator (O Panneerselvam) and joint coordinator (Edappadi Palaniswami) will be internally elected by a ‘single voting system’ directly by the primary members, who have been associated with the party for five continuous years. (ANI)
After the change in bylaws, the coordinator (O Panneerselvam) and joint coordinator (Edappadi Palaniswami) will be internally elected by a ‘single voting system’ directly by the primary members, who have been associated with the party for five continuous years. (ANI)
Published on Dec 02, 2021 12:48 AM IST
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Chennai: In a bid to close the doors on expelled leader Sasikala, who claims herself to be the general secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the party on Wednesday formalised its dual leadership by making a vital change to the bylaws in the party constitution. Now, the coordinator (O Panneerselvam) and joint coordinator (Edappadi Palaniswami) will be internally elected by a ‘single voting system’ directly by the primary members, who have been associated with the party for five continuous years.

Hitherto, according to bylaws, the AIADMK’s members of the general council (roughly 3,000 of them) had the power to elect or remove the party leaders. This change has now solidified AIADMK’s dual leadership arrangement which has been in place since J Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016 and to keep Sasikala and her supporters out.

This was part of the 11 resolutions passed by the AIADMK on Wednesday during the meeting of its executive committee, a key decision-making body, in the party headquarters in Chennai.

A senior AIADMK leader on the condition of anonymity explained that the change was done due to internal squabbling.

“We don’t know who will go against the party in which forum,” he said. For the new process, a party cadre requires to have held a primary membership card of the AIADMK for a minimum of five continuous years to be eligible to vote. “Now, only one box will be kept and the primary member can cast one vote which will go to both posts of coordinator and joint coordinator. During Amma’s (Jayalalithaa) time, the post for general secretary used to be announced and no one would nominate themselves and we would pass a resolution that we have elected Amma unanimously.”

Since the party was founded in 1972 by MG Ramachandran as ADMK (later renamed AIADMK) after he broke away from the DMK, the highest post in the party is that of general secretary which was held by him and later by Jayalalithaa. Following Jayalalithaa’s death in office, her close aide Sasikala took over as interim general secretary. But that lasted just for a month as the Supreme Court convicted her in the disproportionate assets case in February 2017 and was sentenced to four years in jail.

While she was serving her sentence in a Bengaluru jail, the factions of Palaniswami and Panneerselvam merged on a few conditions which included expelling Sasikala in 2017. During the same year, the AIADMK repealed a bylaw that scrapped the party’s all-powerful general secretary post, and resolved that Jayalalithaa would be their eternal general secretary. It transferred the powers of the general secretary by introducing new posts-- coordinator and joint coordinator which went to Panneerselvam and Palaniswami respectively who were then ruling the state as deputy chief minister and chief minister.

The new changes on Wednesday further strengthens the top dual leadership party structure amidst a faction rallying for a single leadership which has been the hallmark of the AIADMK where Jayalalithaa ruled the party and the state.

The AIADMK’s resolutions come in the backdrop of several setbacks that the party is facing--voices growing in favour of Sasikala’s re-entry, the Madras high court rejecting government’s acquisition of Jayalalithaa’s residence for a memorial in her name and the re-opening of the investigations in the murder of Jaya’s former aide at her estate in Kodanad.

Political experts say that AIADMK has restored the bylaws to the MGR period when all primary members had the powers to vote for the top party leader. “This will be a barricade for Sasikala if she wants to take over. How will she convene and consolidate the entire membership?” pointed out political analyst Maalan Narayanan. “Modifying the bylaws also gives the AIADMK leadership legal validity if it is challenged. And it is good for the Opposition to be led by a leader who enjoys the confidence of the cadre.” Sasikala’s petition against convening a meeting in 2017 to make changes in the bylaws and to expel her is pending at a city court in Chennai. “This move may also be to prevent Sasikala from poaching AIADMK members after the case is over.”

Minority wing leader sacked

On Tuesday night, the AIADMK removed the party’s minority wing secretary and senior leader A Anwhar Raajhaa for violating party principles. Raajhaa has been speaking in favour of re-inducting Sasikala, against the current dual leadership and he has been vocal that their alliance with the BJP has cost them the votes of the minorities. Sasikala recently found support in Panneerselvam who said that the party will discuss her re-entry which was dismissed by Palaniswami later.

However, both leaders signed the party order to remove Raajhaa. “He is removed from the primary membership of the party for speaking against the decisions of the high command and bringing disrepute to the AIADMK,” the joint statement from the dual leadership read on Tuesday. The AIADMK has been sacking cadres who are in touch with Sasikala and have supported her. However, Raajhaa’s removal is the first major expulsion which is expected to cause a stir.

A former minister in the Jayalalithaa cabinet and ex-MP from Ramanathapuram, Raajhaa in his interviews recently said that the AIADMK would have fared better in the elections if they had united with Sasikala. Since Jayalalithaa’s death, the AIADMK-led NDA alliance lost the 2019 parliamentary elections, 2021 assembly elections and the rural body polls in October.

Former AIADMK minister and spokesperson D Jayakumar justified the expulsion. “We are a party that follows military discipline,” he said. “While he (Raajhaa) is in the party, how can we accept him criticising the party, and sharing what happens in indoor meetings to outsiders. If we allow this, the party will go out of control. It is the right decision taken at the right time.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is presently Assistant Editor of the Hindustan Times where she covers Tamil Nadu & Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote prime time news bulletins. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, child and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a journalism fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship at Singapore and the KAS Media Asia- The Caravan for narrative journalism. Divya has a master's in politics and international studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As an independent journalist Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.

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Friday, January 21, 2022