AIADMK: Fatigued at 50

The fissures in the party became all too visible when the AIADMK’s general council (GC) meet was held in Chennai in July this year.
Representative Image
Representative Image

Fifty years after the genesis of the AIADMK, which was conceived as the result of a falling out between MGR and the leadership of the DMK, the principal Opposition party in Tamil Nadu is split into four factions. Former Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy, former party coordinator O Panneerselvam, ousted general secretary VK Sasikala and AMMK chief TTV Dhinakaran are the belligerents involved in this tussle for power. The fissures in the party became all too visible when the AIADMK’s general council (GC) meet was held in Chennai in July this year.

The event was in the news, not for the resolutions set at this get-together, but for the action on the sidelines, where the Madras High Court stepped in to quell the dissent among the warring factions of EPS and OPS. The two groups were arguing about the single-leadership stand adopted by EPS. Earlier in September, a division bench of the MHC had upheld EPS’s election as the party’s interim general secretary, and set aside an order that nullified the July 11 GC meet, where EPS was elevated and OPS was booted out.

The infighting among key members of the AIADMK is set to grow fiercer as team EPS is keen on flushing out supporters of OPS from the party. Last week, a high level meeting chaired by EPS discussed strategies to weed out OPS loyalists holding on to party posts at various levels. The operation carried out at the cadre level in the AIADMK stands in stark contrast with how the DMK conducted elections to address its organisational needs.

While these might be internal problems of the AIADMK, such issues have a far-reaching impact on its performance as a formidable Opposition. At a time when it should have channelled its efforts into putting up a brave front against the DMK during the forthcoming Assembly session, by bringing up critical concerns such as the hike in property taxes and power tariffs, it finds itself mired in internal squabbles. A majority of its operating hours are spent firefighting within and outside the immediate periphery of the party. Recently, the AIADMK removed former MP V Maitreyan from its rolls as well.

The presence of wildcards like TTV Dhinakaran and VK Sasikala complicates the matter further, as the latter has a strong following in several rural pockets of the State. What could also be a bone of contention is the two leaves election symbol and the party name ‘AIADMK’ that had been awarded to the EPS-led contingent in 2019. Now that EPS and OPS have gone their separate ways, the question of the party name and election symbol could rear up in the days to come. A similar situation played out in Maharashtra’s Shiv Sena when Eknath Shinde branched off from the parent party to form his own faction and the Election Commission allotted the temporary symbol of two swords and a shield to Shinde’s faction. His predecessor Uddhav Thackeray was allotted the flaming torch symbol. However, both leaders claim to be the true heirs of Balasaheb Thackeray, the founder of Shiv Sena.

Presently, the AIADMK has alienated itself from its core demographic — commoners and the working class. In the absence of supremos to fall back on, all that the party can count upon is the strength of its conviction, vis-a-vis being a people’s outfit. But without actual on-ground efforts to rally the cadre and build up mass momentum among its supporters, the splintered party is only coasting along on the strength of its past glory.

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