The perception of differences gained momentum recently after OPS and EPS issued separate statements on public issues, but joint statements on party matters
Tamil Nadu politics saw a major upheaval on Tuesday after the release of audio tapes of a purported conversation between former Jayalalithaa aide VK Sasikala and certain members of the AIADMK.
Sasikala, who was ousted from AIADMK leadership, in a clip, stated she would have retained AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam as chief minister had he not stepped down in February 2017. She also slammed the party for expelling 17 members — most of whom were said to have talked with her — including spokesman V Pugazhendhi.
In the clip, Sasikala was purportedly heard saying that she has the responsibility to save the party and re-establish the rule of ‘Amma’ (referring to the late chief minister). “I am confident that I will be able to set the party in order as you are with me. The AIADMK should be strong even if it turns 100 years old. We will definitely bring in Amma”s rule,” she said.
Also, she said she would meet the party workers once the pandemic recedes. “Till then, take care of yourselves and your families, besides those around. Be safe, wear face masks,” she urged. “Party members are important to me. I will definitely return,” she said.
Why return now?
That last statement comes as quite a volte face from Sasikala. After all, it was only in March — after being released from prison in January after spending years in jail for a conviction in a 2017 disproportionate assets case — that she announced her decision to “stay away” from politics with the intention of seeing the AIADMK retain power.
Indeed, Sasikala had, after making her ‘stay away’ comment, had said she could not bear to witness the party being ruined by “infighting”. The remark was seen as an allusion to tensions between the two top party leaders and former chief ministers Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and O Panneerselvam (OPS).
The perception of differences gained momentum recently after OPS and EPS issued separate statements on public issues, but joint statements on party matters.
Which allows Sasikala the perfect opportunity to return.
What it means for the party
More fireworks. The AIADMK has been in turmoil since the death of its tallest leader Jayalalithaa in 2016. Indeed, it was after her death that the party saw a split into the EPS and OPS camps over power. Sasikala, meanwhile, after taking over as general secretary, was ousted from the party after being convicted in the disproportionate assets case.
More recently, in the recent Tamil Nadu elections, the AIADMK went down to its archrival DMK after a decade at the helm. While the outcome was far from shocking to most political observers, and the party by all accounts put on a better than expected performance, the stage is set for the former Jayalalithaa aide to make a comeback.
Speaking to the media, AIADMK leader D Jayakumar said that if anyone goes against the party’s law, it will not be tolerated, Times Now reported . “Sasikala is following the policy of divide and rule which will not work in AIADMK. Whoever is going against the party’s law can’t be accepted. Action has been taken against those who went away from abiding law of AIADMK,” Jayakumar said.
He further said that Sasikala is not a member of the AIADMK, asking as to how can she inherit the party, amid speculations of her return to active politics in the state.
What it means for EPS
It is Palaniswamy, the leader of the Opposition and the top boss in the party, who has the most to lose from a Sasikala return.
Palaniswamy has emphatically stated that the party’s stand is that Sasikala and her family have no place in the party. In early June, denouncing the “bid to create confusion” in the party by leaking audio clips (in which Sasikala indicated that she would revive attempts to regain control of AIADMK), Palaniswami, the party co-coordinator, said such attempts would not succeed.
He has also repeatedly rebuffed claims of differences with OPS. The former chief minister said he had no differences with his party colleague O Panneerselvam (OPS) “Sasikala is not a member of the AIADMK and has no links whatsoever to the party. I myself and AIADMK deputy coordinator KP Munuswamy have already made this amply clear,” he told reporters at the party headquarters on 4 June. He also told reporters: “We have no differences of opinion. You (press) magnify it (the allegation) for the sake of sensationalism.”
What it means for OPS
OPS has much to gain. One of the AIADMK leaders in contact with the Sasikala camp told Indian Express that Panneerselvam is expected to support Sasikala if she comes forward to lead a political front. “Panneerselvam is backed by only one MLA and one MP, while all other MLAs support Palaniswami. A few more MLAs from various regions except Western Kongu too might join the Sasikala camp,” the source said.
With inputs from PTI