Impact of AIADMK faction unity

Kalyani Shankar

Tamil Nadu is witnessing fast moving political developments and realignment of political forces. At last the two warring factions of the ruling AIADMK have merged on Tuesday sidelining the Sasikala faction holding on to what it calls the “Aatchi” (government) and “Katchi ” (Party) after a negotiated power sharing arrangement. With four more years to go for the next Assembly polls, no MLA wants elections. They have also decided to get rid of the current General Secretary V.K. Sasikala who is in jail.
For the BJP, which is looking for expansion in the South, the larger implication of the political realignment is linked with its poll strategy to build a state- specific coalition to take on the rival DMK-led front. Getting the right arithmetic had paid in the previous polls, particularly in Tamil Nadu.
Both the AIADMK and DMK, which have for decades dominated the Tamil Nadu politics, are passing through a leadership vacuum after the AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa, died last December. The DMK chief M. Karunanidhi has also retired from active politics from January 2017, leaving the reins to his son M.K. Stalin. The party is all set to strengthen its base in Tamil Nadu and fight the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as the party chief Amit Shah has called its “Mission 360.”  As part of this game plan, the BJP wants to ride piggy- back on the ruling AIADMK.
Jayalalithaa has left behind a mess, as she had not named her successor and the party had split into three factions in the past eight months- one led by the incumbent chief minister E. Palaniswamy (EPS), the second by his predecessor O. Panneerselvam (OPS) and the third by Deputy general secretary of the party TTV Dinakaran (read as Sasikala).  Tuesday’s merger of the OPS and the EPS factions has resolved the AIADMK crisis to some extent leaving the Sasikala faction gasping for breath.  But TTV section has hit back with 19 of their supporting MLAs withdrawing support from the EPS Government.
The BJP, despite making attempts for decades had not been able to find its foothold in the state. P. Muralidhar Rao, BJP general secretary and the party’s Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in-charge has admitted in a recent interview that the biggest challenge for BJP would be finding space for different social, linguistic, religious and communal identities of the people.
The BJP and the Congress had an alliance with the various Dravidian parties like the DMK, AIADMK, DMDK, PMK and MDMK. All of them have found a place in the Union Government as part of the UPA or the NDA coalition in the past two decades and more. The BJP strategists point out that the AIADMK is key for the BJP’s 2019 plans. As the party has already peaked in the North, every seat from the south is significant.  The saffron party has finalized a plan to gain a foothold in the Southern state through an alliance with the AIADMK. The state BJP chief Tamilisai Soundrarajan claims “We have identified 120 constituencies in the state where the party has improved its fortunes over the years. Full time members have been deputed for the outreach programmes to strengthen our base. ”
Tuesday’s merger was the result of the peacemaking efforts of the BJP including Prime Minister Modi. After Jaya’s death, her close aide Sasikala took control of the party and soon angled for the chief minister’s post forcing chief minister OPS to revolt in February. The BJP played its cards smartly nipping in the bud Sasikala’s ambitious plan. Governor Vidyasagar Rao took his time about her elevation as chief minister by which time the Supreme Court pronounced jail term for Sasikala.
It should be noted here that the BJP has been active since the last days of Jayalalithaa’s hospitalization. OPS enjoyed visible patronage of the Centre on the Jallikattu and other issues in the two months he ruled. When Sasikala had to go to jail she installed her nephew TTV Dinakaran as party’s deputy general secretary and EPS as the chief minister. After several slips, the rival factions of the AIADMK finally merged on Tuesday and a new cabinet headed by EPS was sworn in with OPS as Deputy chief minister. Irrespective of the posturing by the two factions, the bone of contention, which has stalled merger, was who would be the chief minister. Though the OPS faction had just 10 MLAs, the workers are said to be with him.  EPS with 122 MLAs naturally did not want to give up his chair.  Dinakaran has the support of 19 MLAs.
While all this is happening, the Tamil superstar, Rajnikant, who has good equations with Prime Minister Modi, is planning to launch his own outfit supported by the BJP. The DMK is wooing another Tamil super star Kamal Hasan, as it needs a crowd puller.  For now, the BJP ‘s strategy is to build a grand alliance with the AIADMK; the caste based Pattali Makkal Katchi, which is already an NDA ally and also Rajnikant’s new outfit for the right arithmetic.
There is uncertainty about the political stability in the state.  First of all, the two factions must settle down to work, as there is no governance at present. Secondly, the alliance with the BJP should work at the ground level because of the inherent contradictions between the two parties. Thirdly, will the new regime provide corruption free administration and finally what would be Sasikala’s strategy to deal with what she calls betrayal? The jury is out. (IPA)

Friday, 1 September, 2017