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EPS-OPS merger is not the finale to AIADMK’s Game of Thrones

Palaniswami and Panneerselvam might have found a way to work together, but the tenuous bond that hold this AIADMK combine will soon show. Dinakaran has a sizeable following, which cannot be discounted. Also waiting on the sides is the DMK, which alleges BJP’s hand in these developments

opinion Updated: Aug 22, 2017 18:37 IST
Viju Cherian
Viju Cherian
Hindustan Times
Tamil Nadu,AIADMK,EPS
Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami (R) and O Panneerselvam greet supporters following merger of their factions, Chennai, August 21(PTI)

On Monday, after much anticipation and accompanying theatrics, the factions headed by former chief minister of Tamil Nadu O Panneerselvam and current CM Edappadi Palaniswami in the ruling AIADMK joined hands. With this merger the two leaders, OPS and EPS, have promised to take the party to new heights.

So it would seem that everything is hunky-dory in the AIADMK and things will get back to normal. Only if that was the case!

The much-talked about merger is not so much a merger but a truce, and a temporary one at that. EPS, who was handpicked by party general secretary VK Sasikala — who is now in jail in a DA case — turned against her nephew and deputy general secretary TTV Dinakaran after the enforcement directorate caught the latter. So he relied on the ancient wisdom of ‘the enemy’s enemy is my friend’. Thus, in OPS he saw an ally.

EPS and OPS might have found a way to work together, but the tenuous bonds that hold this combine will soon show. The division of party posts shows this: While EPS will remain CM and joint coordinator of the party, OPS will be deputy CM and coordinator of the party. The posts have been divided among the two factions to check the domination of any faction in the party.

For the time being, however, OPS has won the round. The former CM, who six months ago had a fallout with Sasikala and was expelled from the AIADMK, has come back by mending fences with EPS. He might be back in the party, but it is not the same party he left, and thus, to say that he has “retaken” the party would not be accurate. It’s an uneasy calm that prevails.

The problem both EPS and OPS face is the lack of a mass base support — both among the party leaders and cadre. It is here that TTV has a slight advantage. Most of the 133 MLAs the AAIDMK have were handpicked by TTV — thus their loyalty towards the other two leaders is not tested. TTV’s recent Madurai rally showed that he enjoys a sizeable following which cannot be discounted.

The last of this has yet not been seen. A lot — still — depends on how TTV chooses to move or how the EPS-OPS combine, with the blessings of the BJP at the Centre, is able to contain the so-called Mannargudi mafia.

After the Monday evening merger TTV said on Twitter than he had “sore throat and fever” and would respond on Wednesday evening.

In a series of tweets that followed, he said that what happened on Monday was not a merger but a commercial agreement to safeguard self-interests and protect posts; that OPS and EPS have betrayed a general secretary chosen by Jayalalithaa, and; that in history betrayals have never won.

The show at Fort St George today will also be one to look out for.

Also waiting on the sides is the DMK, which alleges a BJP role in these developments. Some reports suggest that a TTV aide met with a senior DMK leader in London recently. The 20-30 MLAs TTV claims to have along with the DMK could be the Sword of Damocles hanging over the EPS government.

Given these developments it is clear that the stability that appears to have been achieved on Monday is a mirage and the EPS-OPS merger is not the finale of the AIADMK’s Game of Thrones.

@VijuCherian

First Published: Aug 22, 2017 12:34 IST