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Has the merger of AIADMK factions backfired?

LiveMint logoLiveMint 29-08-2017 Dharani Thangavelu

Chennai: Ever since the two warring factions of Tamil Nadu’s ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) decided to bury their hatchets, there has been deep trouble for the Edappadi K. Palaniswami government, which has already been sailing in rough waters.

Though the nomination of V.K. Sasikala as the general secretary had been challenged before the Election Commission (EC) and the matter, still pending with the commission, the merger last week was finalized on the grounds of keeping Sasikala and her nephew and deputy general secretary T.T.V. Dhinakaran out of AIADMK.

However, the sidelined Dhinakaran had other plans, after he was released on bail in June. He was jailed for allegedly bribing “unnamed” EC officials to retrieve the party’s two leaves symbol.

Also Read: Why the speculated AIADMK merger might be the beginning of a new problem?

Dhinakaran retaliated not just against the AIADMK leaders who had by then decided to keep him and his aunt out, but even against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been orchestrating the merger by attempting to eliminate the Sasikala family.

Also Read: BJP plays AIADMK peacemaker with eye on Tamil Nadu political prize

In fact, after several failed attempts and last-minute disagreements, the AIADMK merger was secured in the presence of S. Gurumurthy, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue and editor of Thughlak magazine.

Najil Sampath from the Dhinakaran faction claimed that Gurumurthy was the “de-facto chief minister” of the state.

The BJP, which has been desperate to gain a foothold amid the political rumbles in the southern state, perhaps didn’t predict Dhinakaran’s move.

Ramu Manivannan, professor and head-department of politics and public administration, University of Madras, Chennai, said the AIADMK merger has misfired and called it “political suicide”.

“A united AIADMK minus Sasikala family was BJP’s plan. But, they failed to understand that a large chunk of Sasikala supporters are at the grassroots levels and most of the key members in the party have been handpicked by them,” said Manivannan.

A senior AIADMK leader from the Palaniswami camp had earlier told Mint that the BJP was giving possible trouble to Tamil Nadu’s ruling party. “They have pressured us from the Centre through various tactics in the last few months and have made attempts to weaken us,” said the leader, on the condition of anonymity.

Over the last few months, AIADMK members have swiftly swapped sides, shifted loyalties and indulged in mudslinging.

More than eight months have passed since the demise of former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, yet things are unsettled within the AIADMK.

“After Amma’s (Jayalalithaa) demise, we haven’t had a strong leadership and the BJP is trying to sway control,” said the AIADMK leader.

For the saffron party which has been attempting to unleash its prowess in the southern state, where it has a nil representation in the legislative assembly and one MP from the state, O. Panneerselvam suddenly became the face, in February, when he rebelled against Sasikala.

Manivannan said the BJP thought they would enter into this unconquered bastion, through Panneerselvam, who failed to excel as a leader.

Opposition leader and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president, M.K. Stalin, who has been accusing the centre for threatening the AIADMK through “selective income tax raids”, blamed the BJP on Monday for holding “katta panchayats” (kangaroo courts) between factions of the AIADMK.

Also Read: AIADMK crisis escalates as T.T.V. Dhinakaran fires salvo

“Tamil Nadu government has surrendered itself to Delhi,” said Stalin.

As Tamil Nadu politics stands reduced to a mere numbers game, the Palaniswami government is preparing the ground and making all attempts to reduce the assembly strength, to show a working majority, if at all a floor test happens.

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