The leading opposition party of Tamil Nadu, which is struck by factionalism and groupism, faces a new challenge to the party’s two-Leaves symbol launched by its founder M G Ramachandran in 1972 when the breakaway group of the DMK was formed in Tamil Nadu.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and senior BJP leader had dropped a hint during his recent visit to Chennai that the AIADMK could face fresh problems due to lack of unity in the wake of the Central Election Commission freezing the election symbol of the Shiv Sena after a split in the Maharashtra party.
Shah has been urging the AIADMK group led former chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy (EPS) to patch up with the ousted party co-ordinator O.Panneerselvam.
Not just that, he had reportedly advised EPS not to pursue his strategy of dismissing all and sundry from the party just because they don’t support him individually.
The groups led by Sasikala Natarajan, who was a close aide of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, and another group led by Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran, had been removed from the party.
Every week, the spate of expulsions by EPS of partymen continues unabated. One of the seniormost leaders of the AIADMK and right-hand man of MGR, Panruit S Ramachandran, has also been axed from the party merely because OPS met him.
The BJP is extremely upset over the tactics of EPS, who is bent on reducing the size of his party, thereby further affecting the chances of not just the AIADMK, but its ally the BJP too.
With elections to the Lok Sabha due in 2024, the BJP-AIADMK alliance which won only one of the 39 seats up for grabs in the State in 2019, BJP’s national parties are hoping against hope that they could increase the numbers from Tamil Nadu.
However, the AIADMK continues on a downward slide, having lost the State Assembly elections to the DMK in 2021. Instead of strengthening the party, EPS is on a dangerous mission to expel all those who believe do not support him blindly. This is at the root of the AIADMK’s current problems.
The BJP would like EPS to try and take everyone along but EPS would have none of it. He has got himself appointed as party general secretary, he has removed the number one in the party, OPS, he has grabbed the post of Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, and is clearly not willing to share power with anyone else.
Therefore, the BJP has been pointing out that lack of unity could hit the AIADMK hard.
Shah’s hint that the party runs the risk of having the symbol frozen, by the Election Commission, going by the Maharashtra precedent, is ominous and has serious overtones for the AIADMK which has to play catch up with the DMK. For the AIADMK cadres and also for a good chunk of the weaker sections, MGR’s Two Leaves symbol for the party, is an emotional issue.
It is a motivating and energising faction in the run up to elections. In the 1989 Assembly polls, when the AIADMK was divided into at least four factions, and the party symbol was frozen, the DMK returned to power.
Many in the AIADMK are shaken by the possibility that it may not be able to use MGR’s Two-Leaves symbol, and that could hurt the party enormously in future polls.
They believe that just as the AIADMK leadership led by EPS agreed to the merger with the OPS group in 2017 after several of its ministers were subjected to raids by the Income-Tax department and the Enforcement Directorate,
EPS and his supporters would see reason and agree for another round of merger again with the OPS group. After all, former ministers of the AIADMK need the help of the BJP, especially in the Supreme Court, if the DMK government pursues the cases against them.
For the moment though, EPS continues to maintain his stand of no truck with those ousted. The question is how long he would be able to stick to this stand, in the face of mounting BJP pressure.