A year after former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s death, the AIADMK is still trying to find its feet, with the multiple factions within the party grappling for power in the state. Jayalalithaa, the state’s longest-serving chief minister, failed to name a successor before her demise. This led to multiple people staking claim to her legacy.
Following Jayalalithaa’s death, it took nearly eight months for the warring factions of the party, led by Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami and his predecessor O Panneerselvam, to iron out their differences. After multiple rounds of talks, the two factions struck a deal under which EPS remained CM and OPS his deputy. They formally ousted Sasikala, who was serving as interim general secretary. OPS’ other demand, to conduct a probe into the death of Jayalalithaa, was also accepted.
On October 4, an inquiry committee, set up by the state government comprising Justice A Arumugasamy, began its probe into Jayalalithaa’s death.
A second split within the party saw the emergence of a third faction led by Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dinakaran. Sasikala, Jayalalithaa’s most-trusted aide, is currently serving a prison sentence in a Bengaluru jail after being convicted in a disproportionate assets case.
Meanwhile, Jayalalithaa’s niece, Deepa Jayakumar, launched her own political outfit ‘MGR Amma Deepa Peravai’ earlier this year, vowing to “protect the party, and work for the people.”
Further, in the last few months, Tamil actors Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan have also been hinting at joining electoral politics. They have left their fans guessing on whether they would launch their political outfits in the future.
Impact of AIADMK rift
The power struggle between leaders of the AIADMK left the ruling party divided in the Tamil Nadu Assembly for many months. Despite the EPS-OPS merger, the ruling party is falling short on support to hold a comfortable majority in the assembly. Dinakaran, with the support MLAs in his faction, has threatened to topple the government unless EPS resigns and he is reinstated in the party.
Due to the friction within the AIADMK, the Opposition in the House had called for a floor test in August and challenged the government to prove its majority. DMK Working President M K Stalin, citing an “unprecedented constitutional crisis,” had approached the Madras High Court claiming the ruling party was trying to disqualify the rebel MLAs in a bid to manipulate its position in the House. It sought direction to then Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao to conduct a floor test.
In light of the instability within the government, the role of the Tamil Nadu Governor came under scrunity.
The upcoming RK Nagar bypoll
The election to the RK Nagar seat, which was held by Jayalalithaa before her death, will test the popularity of the recently unified AIADMK faction — led by EPS and and OPS. The seat has been with the party since 2011.
The ruling faction will see stiff competition from the Sasikala faction, which announced Dinakaran as its candidate for the polls.
The election will be held on December 21, and counting of votes on December 24. It was originally scheduled to be held earlier this year on April 12 but was postponed by the Election Commission following allegations of distributing money to voters.
Meanwhile, the DMK, which looking to regain the RK Nagar seat, is fielding N Marudu Ganesh for the bypolls.
Speaking to The Indian Express recently, Rajya Sabha MP and DMK leader Kanimozhi said the people of the state are “turning toward the DMK” as they have “lost faith in the AIADMK and the ruling government.” Speaking at Idea Exchange, she added, “obviously, when the ruling party is in disarray, any opposition party will benefit from it.”
Actor Vishal has also thrown his hat into the ring. He will be contesting as an independent on the ‘Whistle’ symbol.
AIADMK symbol row
The dispute over the AIADMK party symbol was recently settled by the EC after it awarded the “two-leaves” to the faction headed by EPS-OPS. The controversy erupted after all factions staked claim to the iconic symbol which is often referred to as the victory sign.
In its order, the EC said it was “…of the considered opinion that the petitioners group led by Shri E Madhusudhanan, O Paneerselvam and S Semmalai, and also supported presently by the impleading applicant Shri E K Palaniswami, the present Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, enjoys support of majority of members, both in the organisational and legislature wings of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra (AIADMK).”
Dinakaran, who claimed the poll panel “cannot act impartially”, has moved the Delhi High Court against the order.