A weakened AIADMK gives ruling DMK a free run & BJP a greater chance to conquer opposition space

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi, Senior Journalist

If in Maharashtra, the BJP’s hand was somewhat visible in splitting the Shiv Sena to wrest power, in Tamil Nadu the BJP appears to be a gaining from an organic split in the principal opposition party – AIADMK — that is giving it a chance to occupy the opposition space.

The leadership tussle within the AIADMK, that led to its vertical split into two factions each headed by a former Chief Minister, today has turned into a protracted legal battle with twists and turns.

The most recent twist, that came in an order of the Madras High Court on Wednesday, has intensified the battle for control of the party that was led and built by MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa and its political legacy. After the Madras High Court nullified ouster of O Panneerselvam from the party, the other former Chief Minister Edapaddi Palaniswami has rejected the plea for reconciliation from his adversary and challenged the High court decision that nullified party decisions taken at previous general council meeting.

The Madras High Court had on Wednesday ordered a fresh AIADMK General Council meeting, to be held in the presence a commissioner.

The meeting, the court said, must be convened and organized jointly by the two Co-coordinators of AIADMK – OPS and EPS. Now, this judgment comes as a boost to OPS, giving him temporary victory, which prolongs the internal squabble as his adversary, EPS is quite unwilling to make any compromise.

Arguably buoyed by the Madras High Court decision nullifying the general council decisions and restoring his part-leadership in AIADMK, OPS resolved to fight for control of the party. It surely is a morale booster for him, as he has forced EPS to go back to the drawing board. This time around, it will be a much tougher task for EPS to oust his opponent as the court has decreed that the fresh general council meeting must be held in the presence of a commissioner, so that it is held in accordance with party laws, byelaws, rules, and regulations.

With AIADMK thus busy with its top two leaders battling it out for control of the party, another big beneficiary is the ruling DMK, which gets time and opportunity to consolidate its position and carry on with governance without any apprehensions of oversight by the opposition.

Whatever opposition is coming to the ruling dispensation, it is coming from the BJP, for the present.

In fact, with AIADMK preoccupied, the BJP’s younger but aggressive leader, state BJP president K Annamalai, has become the main voice of opposition that is visible and heard in the state. He is even forcing the DMK on backfoot on few issues.

On its own, the state BJP is said to be working out alliances with smaller formations and is poised to rope in leaders like Captain Vijayakanth, Pattali Makkal Katchi and already has the nod of OPS to work with it. The BJP on its own would like the two factions of the AIADMK were together and its old alliance with the AIADMK continues well into the future, for the 2024 Lok Sabha general elections, and beyond.

The state unit of the BJP has been working to a plan to occupy the opposition space but so far has been careful to maintain a public posture that it has nothing to do with developments within the AIADMK. There, however, is a perception that the BJP was trying to occupy the opposition space. Its MLAs too maintain that it was BJP that was maintaining pressure against the DMK in the state assembly.

Given this, for the BJP, a weakened AIADMK that is embroiled in an intense war within itself, presents an opportunity that it has been waiting for – to dictate terms and gain an upper hand in any future partnership or alliance for elections.

(Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political issues and takes a keen interest in sports as well. He has worked with prominent news organisations.)

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