CHENNAI: The ongoing leadership tussle in the AIADMK is drowning the Dravidian major in a quicksand of litigation. Last week, the Madras High Court restored the party’s dual leadership system through an order that compelled Edappadi K Palaniswami, the party’s newly elected interim general secretary, to work in collaboration with his chief rival, party coordinator O Panneerselvam, who had been ousted at the July 11 general council meeting. The Madras High Court had ruled that this meeting was void, as it was not convened by individuals who were authorised to do so. The court order said there shall be no GC or executive meeting without the consent of both coordinator and joint coordinator, who can jointly decide upon the restoration of a single leadership. The developments had provided some relief to OPS, who has retrieved his shared leadership portfolio after much chagrin. The relief was offset by the fact that Chennai police registered theft and rioting cases against OPS, which have now been transferred to the CB-CID.
The EPS camp on its end, is viewing the proceedings as a setback, in the backdrop of how the July 11 GC meet might have been symbolic of the overwhelming support for EPS from majority of the GC members, which in turn might have been the gateway to take full control of the party. The Supreme Court has also sent a notice to EPS, seeking his response on a petition filed by OPS that challenged a Madras HC order that handed over the possession of the AIADMK headquarters to the EPS faction. These episodes of litigation have every possibility of stretching into weeks, or months, draining the AIADMK of precious time, energy and resources that could have been put to productive use in its role as Tamil Nadu’s chief Opposition party. The absence of a strong opposition does not bode well for democracy and for public welfare, as it leads to the creation of an echo chamber of opinions, and policies with no mechanisms for a roll-back.
The party has as many as 66 MLAs and the faculties to present a formidable opposition to DMK, and call the ruling party out on critical matters that require course correction. For instance, concerns like the construction of a new airport, the hike in milk prices, and the implementation of the NEP, are all talk points that need to be deliberated upon in the Assembly. But entrenched in court affairs, Amma’s successors are yet to present any substantive arguments against the aforementioned announcements.
Apart from the impact on the public, the fissures within AIADMK are slowly, but surely denting the image of the party, both inside and outside the assembly. The manner in which OPS, who at one point in time referred to Sasikala as his archrival, is now gradually opening up to the idea of her rejoining the AIADMK has set tongues wagging, as speculation regarding the possibility of new alliances being forged are also making the rounds. The downside is that until now, the AIADMK could boast about bagging a vote share over 30% come election season. However, thanks to the internal squabbles, there is a threat of this vote share being split due to the rising factionalism. This risks affecting not only the unity of the party, but even its performance, as next time around, parties like the BJP will end up asking for more seats to form a majority in TN.
Never before has the onus of putting its house back in order, and that too, without wasting much time in back and forth litigations, been greater for this Dravidian party. An Opposition’s relevance is directly tied into how strongly it can stand up to those in power, not when it’s scrambling for leadership in its own backyard.