How BJP brokered EPS-OPS truce ahead of Erode bypoll

By, Chennai
Feb 08, 2023 05:11 AM IST

According to the leaders aware of the development, the BJP’s aim for the bypoll — that the anti-DMK votes should not be split between the various factions of the AIADMK — has been achieved for now.

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) candidate from the Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) faction, KS Thennarasu on Tuesday filed his nomination papers for the Erode East Assembly bypoll even as the Bharatiya Janata Party officially announced its support to the party.

The Election Commission of India has approved the ‘two leaves’ symbol for AIADMK. (ANI)
The Election Commission of India has approved the ‘two leaves’ symbol for AIADMK. (ANI)

Thennarasu, the candidate of Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) faction filed papers on the last day of the nomination after the O Panneerselvam (OPS) faction opted out of the race.

According to the leaders aware of the development, the BJP’s aim for the bypoll — that the anti-DMK votes should not be split between the various factions of the AIADMK — has been achieved for now.

Earlier, the BJP brokered a temporary truce between the two sparring AIADMK factions, following which O Panneerselvam faction withdrew their candidate and the EPS camp retained their candidate and more importantly, the two leaves symbol.

On Tuesday, Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai while announcing the party’s decision to support Thennarasu called him the “legitimate candidate” and thanked OPS for “withdrawing in the interest of the two-leaves symbol and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)”.

Later in the day, AIADMK’s breakaway faction — Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) — led by leader TTV Dhinakaran also announced withdrawing their candidate since the Election Commission of India (ECI) did not allot them the cooker symbol (on which they had contested the previous elections).

“We want to avoid the unnecessary confusion which may be caused by contesting under a new symbol just ahead of the 2024 parliamentary election,” read a statement from AMMK. The AMMK has eaten into AIADMK’s vote bank in the last two elections even when EPS and OPS were together in the dual leadership set-up.

So, the BJP now believes that they have “one common candidate” under EPS against “one common enemy”— the ruling DMK, people in the know of the matter said.

“We have been able to bring them together for now at least. We took a lot of effort and it has paid off,” said a senior BJP leader in Tamil Nadu, requesting anonymity.

BJP, which was instrumental in uniting the EPS and OPS factions in 2017, had for the last six months been staying away from the feuding leaders. But on February 3, BJP’s national general secretary C T Ravi along with Annamalai met both EPS and OPS. “They insisted that we withdraw our candidate,” said a leader belonging to the OPS faction, who was present during the meeting. BJP had also pointed out that the Erode East seat is in the western region which is the stronghold of EPS.

Before the meeting, OPS had already announced Senthil Murugan as their candidate with a rider that he would withdraw his candidate if the BJP were to contest.

Yet, the OPS faction had no intention to backtrack for the sake of EPS. “We even showed them our strategy to get 25,000 votes,” the leader quoted above said. “They wanted us to cooperate so that the votes wouldn’t be split. But we have a feeling that Annamalai is supporting EPS.” So their candidate Murugan went ahead and filed his nomination on the same day.

The issue played out in Delhi too where the Supreme Court on the same day — while hearing Edappadi Palaniswami’s petition to direct ECI to update records that he is AIADMK’s interim general secretary and that OPS is expelled — ordered the party to convene a general council meeting and select one candidate. “We had told the BJP that we will think about their suggestion but we only withdrew our candidate to obey the Supreme Court order,” said another leader close to OPS.

Following this, on February 6, OPS supporter K P Krishnan called a press conference to announce that they are withdrawing their candidate for the “larger good” of the AIADMK’s two-leaves symbol to win.

“We also wanted unity,” said a second OPS supporter who was present in the meeting. “We wanted both leaders to sign on Form B — OPS as coordinator and EPS as joint-coordinator for the two-leaves symbol but that has not happened. They (EPS camp) did not follow proper procedure for selecting the candidate,” said the leader.

A leader from the EPS camp, who has led several legal tussles of the party, was confident that this would be “the last time that they will have to fight out a long process with OPS” since the ECI on February 6 cleared the decks for them to be allotted the two-leaves symbol for the bypoll. “Everything will be settled soon. The Supreme Court judgement will also be in our favour,” he said.

Earlier, the BJP had also told EPS in the meeting to “consider a united AIADMK”. EPS supporter D Jayakumar, however, asserted: “A 100% EPS and OPS will not meet...OPS is DMK’s B-team who is creating problems to freeze the two-leaves symbol.”

Following the back-to-back meetings with EPS and OPS, the IT wing secretary, Singai G Ramachandran belonging to the EPS camp had tweeted, “Who the hell is C T Ravi to tell us what we should do in our party?”

C Ponniayan also in the EPS camp said that they are being cautious of the BJP.

However, a senior BJP leader, on the condition of anonymity said that they “do not care about what third-line leaders have to say”. “EPS and OPS both received us and our suggestions,” he said.

The BJP has already made it clear that the AIADMK will lead the NDA alliance in Tamil Nadu for the 2024 general elections and at present it is EPS who enjoys the brute majority in the party.

The bypoll is scheduled for February 27.

When asked if this is a temporary arrangement and if BJP will again try to unite EPS and OPS or if they would pick a side ahead of the 2024 parliamentary elections, a national BJP leader who did not want to be named said, “The BJP will let time make the decisions. A united AIADMK is stronger, we believe. For now, both EPS and OPS have cooperated with us. This is what we wanted.”

Get Latest India Newsalong with Latest Newsand Top Headlinesfrom India and around the world.

    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.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals