AIADMK has become BJP’s Trojan Horse but Tamil Nadu is no Troy
Expelling the Mannargudi Mafia from the AIADMK will not ‘clean’ it. EPS, OPS, Sasikala and Dinakaran are all cut from the same clothopinion Updated: Sep 10, 2017 18:58 IST
The post-Jayalalithaa AIADMK has evidently become the BJP’s Trojan horse. For all her faults, in 1988-89, the late leader kept the BJP leadership and the government on tenterhooks and even brought the BJP government down. More recently, despite all her legal difficulties she stood up to the Centre opposing many of its schemes.
Today, the AIADMK government led by Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and his deputy O Panneerselvam (OPS) is on life support from the BJP. Consequently, the AIADMK has become an annex of the BJP with Prime Minister Modi meeting both faction heads. When they merged on August 21, he promptly tweeted his support for Tamil Nadu under their combined leadership — possibly because the BJP’s hard work had finally borne fruit.
OPS, EPS and even Sasikala Natarajan are no Jayalalithaa. On January 3, Venkaiah Naidu, then information minister, said in a circumlocutory fashion that Jayalalithaa’s death had opened up possibilities for the BJP in Tamil Nadu. Of course he was talking about his party as an alternative in the Dravidian heartland. But even Naidu would have not imagined the possibilities for the BJP as they have unfolded since.
As Jayalalithaa’s sibling in spirit Sasikala decided to take centre stage in February, the party came apart with OPS’ revolt. Sasikala installed EPS as a stopgap arrangement and anointed TTV Dinakaran, her nephew, as deputy secretary general of the party even as she was sent to jail for the disproportionate assets case. EPS then won the trust vote on February 20. Sasikala had earlier safely shepherded the 122 MLAs away from any temptation to join the rebel OPS faction. In return, EPS and his ministers campaigned for Dinakaran in the RK Nagar bypoll cancelled by the election commission on account of candidates “bribing...voters”. This then led to IT raids at a minister’s house, bringing to light a well-hatched plan to distribute cash for votes, in which allegedly even EPS had a role.
If anyone expected things to get difficult for EPS and his ministerial colleagues, they were in for a surprise: Instead Dinakaran was accused of trying to have bribed an EC official for the party symbol which had been frozen by the EC. He was arrested and spent two months in Tihar jail, at which point he announced that he was withdrawing from public life.
Meanwhile, EPS began to consolidate himself and merger talks began with the OPS faction. Though talks floundered the script was proceeding on expected lines: The two factions would isolate and remove the Sasikala clan — informally called the Mannargudi Mafia — from the party and government.
In the BJP’s calculation — an AIADMK sans the Sasikala clan is a cleansed AIADMK, good for piggy backing on. But a post-Tihar Dinakaran spoilt their plans as he chose to fight back.
He termed the two factions as traitors who wanted to run away with whatever they could get. More ingeniously, he did not take on the BJP. Also, unlike the two leaders, he conjured up an impressive rally in Melur close to Madurai. But what is most impressive is that while Dinakaran wishes to curry favour with the BJP he is unwilling to yield space to the BJP’s plans to remove his aunt and family from the political scene.
On August 22, 19 MLAs owing allegiance to Dinakaran met governor C Vidyasagar Rao said they were withdrawing support to EPS. Rao has rejected the DMK-led Opposition’s demands to order a floor test stating beguilingly that the 19 MLAs are still with the party. The Speaker on the other hand had issued notice to the 19. On September 6, fisheries minister D Jayakumar said 109 MLAs attended a meeting chaired by the chief minister. This is eight short of the 117 MLAs needed for a majority. Unfortunately, as the tussle for power continues governance has become a casualty.
The BJP can be expected to save the EPS government as long as it can by using all the instruments under its control. But there are some imponderables: How will it help the merged factions overcome the legal and extra legal hurdles thrown up by Dinakaran, not to mention the knots that the EPS faction had tied itself into by having supported Sasikala earlier before the EC?
And assuming that Dinakaran goes down fighting or otherwise, will the AIADMK then become clean? It is clear to everyone except the BJP that OPS, EPS and Sasikala-Dinakaran are all cut from the same cloth. The greed for political gain has blinded the BJP. The AIADMK could serve as its Trojan horse but Tamil Nadu is no Troy.
R Kannan is a diplomat and biographer of Annadurai and MGR
The views expressed are personal