Editorial: Clearing the coast for EPS
On the birth anniversary of AIADMK’s late supremo J Jayalalithaa, the deadlock in the party centred around the power to convene its general council (GC) meeting ended this week. The Supreme Court gave its nod to the party’s July 11 GC meet held last year, while refraining from ruling on the issues of validating the resolutions that elected Edappadi K Palaniswami as interim general secretary, and the expulsion of O Panneerselvam and his loyalists. EPS’s team is preparing to move the ECI to get the amended party by-laws uploaded.
The Supreme Court order is being viewed as a shot in the arm for EPS’s ambitions for single leadership in the AIADMK. The timing is significant considering the developments in the national arena. In Maharashtra, CM Eknath Shinde was named the new Shiv Sena president in the party’s national executive meeting, and his faction bagged the party name and symbol. This has resonance in Tamil Nadu, where AIADMK’s successors had been battling for the two-leaves symbol, which is now in team EPS’s hold.
The party will continue to focus on the Gounder-centric western (Kongu region), and Vanniyar-dominated northern belts, where EPS has significant influence. He will need to put up a strong front in the upcoming by-poll in Erode to reassure his loyalists in the Kongu belt. However, in the southern belt, also known as the Mukkulathor or Thevar belt, ousted leaders like O Panneerselvam, VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, could play spoilsport in the delicate caste dynamics of the region.
Having said that, in the 2021 Assembly poll, TTV backed by his aunt barely managed to garner 4% of the votes, compared to the AIADMK fronted by EPS which polled 40% of the votes. Even with the support of his Thevar stronghold, observers speculate that OPS might be able to put up only a token resistance and rid 2-3% of the Dravidian major’s 25% electorate.
Obviously, the AIADMK’s B-team is running short of time and strategies, despite Sasikala having implicitly expressed her support for OPS through a meeting. Also, when it comes to the question of regional alliances, the BJP, in power at the Centre, will undoubtedly look at team EPS as its first choice. Garnering even a decent vote share in the upcoming Erode by-poll could propel EPS’s political graph dramatically.
It could also act as a potent morale booster for his loyalists who are raring to put the party affairs back on track, by electing EPS as the permanent general secretary — essentially thumbing their noses at OPS’s demands to recognise J Jayalalithaa as the party supremo in perpetuity. Owing to the Supreme Court judgement, team EPS can now hold special meetings at will, thanks to the backing it enjoys from the members of the general and executive councils. These meetings will help the faction adopt new resolutions aimed at ousting rivals and amending the party constitution as necessary.
But EPS’s struggles are far from over. Presiding over 1.5 cr AIADMK cadre, he now has the challenge of steering the party as a lone legionnaire, devoid of the cultural clout enjoyed by predecessors like MGR and Jayalalithaa. In the process of facing up to his archrival, the DMK, he will have to engender faith in the party that cuts across caste and geographic barriers.
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