Chennai: AIADMK Coordinator O Panneerselvam (OPS) on Wednesday appeared to have resigned himself to the fact that the odds are stacked against him ahead of the June 23 party meeting which is expected to favour Joint Coordinator Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) for a single, supreme party post.
In another setback for OPS, police declined to entertain his plea to deny permission to the party General and Executive Council meetings scheduled to be held in Chennai on Thursday. It is expected that the meet would name EPS as the top leader, as he enjoys an overwhelming support, and designate him suitably.
Pannerselvam tweeted that ‘Dharma will win again’ while the Madras High Court is hearing arguments for and against (EPS and OPS factions, respectively) the permissibility of making leadership change in the crucial meeting.
Late party matriarch, J Jayalalithaa was declared AIADMK’s eternal general secretary in 2017 to honour her memory and the party had announced then that no one else would be brought to that position. OPS’s ‘Dharma’ remark appeared to be an indication that he has started reconciling himself to the fact that, as of now, his rival EPS has an upper hand in the party and that Panneerselvam would do whatever it takes to reclaim his rightful position in the party.
Among the options being explored by the OPS camp include approaching the Election Commission at the right time for its intervention. Petitions have been filed in a city court as well seeking intervention to maintain status quo as regards the dual structure (led by OPS and EPS) of party leadership.
Panneerselvam, expressing anguish over a supporter attempting self-immolation, appealed to cadres to not resort to any extreme measures such as this. He quoted a popular Tamil phrase, which could be roughly translated as “Dharma may be engulfed by a cunning ploy, but Dharma will eventually win.” OPS alleged that an autocratic and unruly attitude prevailed in the AIADMK now, apparently targeting EPS who had on Tuesday hit out at him. Without naming OPS explicitly, Palaniswami had said that some individuals were trying to weaken the party.
Responding to Panneerselvam, senior party leader D Jayakumar from the Palaniswami camp denied there was autocracy in the organisation and that it was a democratic one. He also charged Panneerselvam with committing “mistakes after mistakes.”
Several well-known supporters of OPS like Deputy Secretary K P Munusamy and former minister K Pandiarajan have switched over to the EPS camp, which has an overwhelming support including that of veterans like Dindigul Srinivasan and K A Sengottaiyan. Whatever support OPS had, has seen a steady decline right from June 14, when the demand for a single leadership first emerged.
Right now, less than 10 district secretaries out of the total 75 secretaries for party districts and a group of office-bearers including Deputy Secretary R Vaithilingam are backing Panneerselvam, besides sections of ordinary party workers.
Three-time Rajya Sabha MP and a well-known AIADMK face in Delhi, V Maitreyan was one among the OPS supporters to switch loyalty and move towards Palaniswami.
Speaking to reporters after calling on Palaniswami here and extending his support to him, Maitreyan, whose last term in the Upper House ended in 2019 said that a robust and determined leadership is the need of the hour.
Such a leadership structure is a ‘single leadership,’ and Edappadi K Palaniswami is the leader who has all the requisite capabilities to steer the party, he said.
An overwhelming majority of party office-bearers, the General Council members, ‘about 95 per cent’ in all favour EPS for the supreme position in the party. He said he decided to back EPS considering party’s welfare and interests to bring back the AIADMK rule.
Harping on unity and strengthening AIADMK, party veteran and former Chennai Mayor ‘Saidai’ Duraisamy too has aligned with EPS. While EPS is presently the leader of opposition in the Assembly, Panneerselvam is the deputy leader.
The meeting is expected to adopt 23 resolutions and draft copies have been made available to OPS. In the meanwhile, his supporters gathered at the memorial of late AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa and raised slogans supporting their leader. Also, they demanded that the EPS camp give up the single leadership proposal and defer the General and Executive meetings.
Police personnel were deployed in adequate numbers in and around the hall at suburban Vanagaram, where the AIADMK meet is scheduled to be convened besides her memorial.