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At AIADMK meet to review LS performance, posters highlight leadership tussle

In the LS elections, OPS’ son Raveendranath Kumar was the lone winner for the party and for the NDA, which comprised the BJP among others. Western Tamil Nadu, where the OBC Goundars are doiminant, has been a tradional stronghold of the AIADMK.

india Updated: Jun 12, 2019 19:22 IST
MC Rajan
MC Rajan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
AIADMK,Lok Sabha polls,O Panneerselvam
(O Panneerselvam/Twitter)

Infighting in the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) spilled over to the streets ahead of Wednesday’s crucial meeting of party district secretaries, attended by MLAs and MPs as well.

After the severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, this is the first formal meet of party functionaries. Significantly, it was convened following the clamour for a unitary leadership instead of the present diarchy.

Currently, Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS) is the Coordinator of the AIADMK while Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) is joint coordinator.

But, ever since the electoral rout, the dual leadership has come under severe attack. The AIADMK failing to get a berth in the Union Ministry due to the reported intense feud within the party on choosing a consensus candidate had added fuel to it. And, it has now spilled over to the streets.

Posters, prominently put up by some AIADMK functionaries in front of the AIADMK headquarters at Royapettah in the city, venue of the conclave, urged Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) to take over the reins of the party as the General Secretary. This was despite the leadership issuing a gag order to silence the cadre as well as frontline leaders to desist from airing their views in public on either continuing the diarchy or dispensing with it.

In the LS elections, OPS’ son Raveendranath Kumar was the lone winner for the party and for the NDA, which comprised the BJP among others. Western Tamil Nadu, where the OBC Goundars are doiminant, has been a tradional stronghold of the AIADMK. Since EPS, himself a Goundar, also hails from this Kongu region, the poll debacle was seen as a setback for the Chief Minister. Yet, AIADMK MLAs are more in number from this region. While OPS was hopeful of ensuring his son to be a Union Minister, EPS has backed the claim of party veteran R Vaithilingam, a Rajya Sabha MP, torpedoing the former’s ambition.

According to P Ramajayam, Associate Professor with Bharathidasan University, this tussle has also acquired a regional and caste dimension and seen as a fight for supremacy between the Goundars and the OBC Thevar community comprising the, Maravar, Kallar and Agamudaiyar castes, dominant in Southern Tamil Nadu. OPS is a Maravar!

“The AIADMK has ducked the leadership issue for the present. But, it is very clear that EPS has gained an upper hand which indicates the Goundars have increased their grip over the party and the government. Key portfolios are with the Goundars. When VK Sasikala, former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s close aide, was at the helm, it was the Thevars all the way. The situation has changed but the party would have to confront the relevance of diarchy,” he explains.

“When OPS’s son was in the race for union ministership, EPS has scuttled it with Vaithilingam, a Kallar,” he pointed out.

While the meeting passed five resolutions, none of them was about the leadership issue or about continuing the alliance with the BJP though a couple of ministers have blamed the tie up with the saffron party for the party’s dismal performance.

For, the recent meetings of two AIADMK ministers, SP Velumani and P Thangamani, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah among other central ministers has fuelled speculation about the BJP being involved in the AIADMK’s internal affairs. The duo is believed to be trusted aides of EPS.

However, AIADMK veteran and Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar denied that neither the leadership issue nor the alliance with the BJP were discussed at the meeting.

“The demand for single leadership is a non-issue and it was not discussed at the meeting. It is not a big thing as it is being made out to be. Neither the alliance with the BJP was a subject of discussion at the meeting,” he told the media after the meeting which lasted for nearly one and a half hour.

Echoing the same, Dairy Development Minister Rajenthira Bhalaji dismissed speculations that the meeting was convened to take up the leadership issue.

“We discussed only about the recent elections. A resolution passed at the meeting thanked the electorate and the party workers as well the cadre of the alliance partners,” he said.

First Published: Jun 12, 2019 19:22 IST