An uneasy truce as AIADMK announces its CM candidate
Tamil Nadu’s incumbent chief minister EPS will be projected as the party’s chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming assembly elections next year.
The weeks-long tussle between Chief Minister Edapaddi Palanisami (EPS) and Deputy CM O Paneerselvam (OPS) was finally put to rest with the announcement on Wednesday that the former will be the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming elections. There has always been an uneasy relationship between the two since the death of the AIADMK matriarch in 2017 and this boiled over in recent weeks with very public exhibitions of OPS’ desire for the top post.
With party general secretary VK Sasikala out of the picture at least for the time being, EPS is the most powerful leader in the party with the support of most of the MLAs and the cabinet. But OPS is a member of an electorally influential caste and in order to show a united front to the opposition, media and voters, EPS had to give in and announce the constitution of a steering committee. This had been a long-time demand of OPS which EPS had been reluctant to acquiesce to. OPS wanted a body that can increase his bargaining power against EPS who was using his office to take unilateral decisions while EPS wanted to prevent any murmurs of discontent among those in his camp who might not find a place in this committee.
Currently, the 11-member steering committee has 6 EPS supporters as opposed to 5 OPS supporters, which might give the former more a say not just in the government but also in party matters. The powers of this committee and what role it will play in the upcoming elections have not been defined, so it is unclear how OPS will can leverage this to his advantage. Sasikala’s imminent release from prison, following the completion of her jail term in a disproportionate assets case, there might be a rumbling within party ranks. Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, who went on to form a party of his own, had been ousted from the party in 2017 when the EPS and OPS factions merged. Will they continue to hold sway over party members and will they will be entertained by the party remains to be seen.