Reaching agreement on the choice of Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy as the ruling AIADMK’s chief ministerial candidate for the coming Assembly election in Tamil Nadu has led to ‘victory’ celebrations in Chennai with bursting of firecrackers and distribution of sweets.

Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, runner-up for the coveted position, graciously proposed Palaniswamy’s name after wresting control of the party by constituting a 11-member steering committee to manage the party in which his supporters dominate.

While both leaders claim victory, Panneerselvam is the real winner. Going by the voters’ propensity to change governments every five years, it is the turn of Opposition DMK to bag the coming election. If the AIADMK fails to garner a majority, it would spell the end of Palaniswamy’s political career whereas Panneerselvam would be left with control of a party having the largest number of members in the State.

The AIADMK joined the BJPled National Democratic Alliance during last year’s Lok Sabha election in which the BJP drew a blank. The parties have not severed ties so far. State BJP president L Murugan ruled out his party accepting Palaniswamy leading the NDA in the assembly election.

On the contrary, the NDA will have a BJP nominee leading the alliance at the polls, he said. A top AIADMK’s leader has made it clear that only parties accepting Palaniswamy as the Chief Minister candidate can join the alliance. The AIADMK has been a personality-oriented party with no distinct ideology or policy. Unfortunately, after its founderleader MG Ramachandran and his successor J Jayalalitha, the party has been bereft of charismatic leaders.

Other than the DMK fielding MK Stalin, as its Chief Minister candidate, a plethora of political parties are entering the field with candidates of their own. The BJP is toying with the idea of heading an NDA alliance. with its own candidate. To add glamour to the alliance and with an eye on Muslim votes, the BJP had roped in Tamil film star Kushboo, a well-known party hopper.

By easing out long-time leaders like H Raja and not accommodating even a single leader from Tamil Nadu in the just reconstituted national executive, the BJP leadership has sent confusing signals about the party’s seriousness about expanding its footprint in Tamil Nadu.

Veteran BJP leader and former Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan said the AIADMK’s alliance with the BJP was only for the last Lok Sabha election. The party could forge an alliance with any like-minded party for the election. Kamal Haasan, popular film star with his own outfit, hopes to emerge as the dark horse and capture Fort St George. Seeman, leader of Nam Tamilar Party, even after drawing a blank in the 2016 Assembly election, has not given up his ambition of fielding candidates in all 234 constituencies, while superstar Rajnikant is waiting in the wings for the pandemic to blow over to take the plunge.