Tussle for Reins of AIADMK on the Cards

Chennai: A new tussle for holding the reins of the AIADMK is on the cards with V K Sasikala, erstwhile confidante of former party chief J Jayalalithaa, likely to throw in her hat with the hope of ousting present general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami and regaining the position that she was divested of in the aftermath of her going to jail in 2017.

Though she completed her four year sentence at the Parapana Agrahara prison in Bengaluru on January 27, 2021, and drove down to Chennai in style, so far she had been keeping her political aspirations to herself. But now, after her loaded statement outside the polling booth on April 19, the grapevine is abuzz with speculations on her next move.

Now, it is said that her plan is to wait for the results of the Lok Sabha elections and then pounce on Palaniswami with the help of some disgruntled leaders and functionaries within the AIADMK. As she herself suggested on Election Day – she said that the results would make some people regret their decisions - the AIADMK would be trounced and that could be used to raise a demand for a change in leadership.

While she cannot do it on her own as she has been thrown out of the party by Palaniswami and his coterie, she has started writing letters to other functionaries and leaders in the lower rungs of the party to incite the rebellion against Palaniswami. The plan is to ask for the convening of the General Council and demand elections for the general secretary that Sasikala hopes to win.

Sensing the trouble brewing for him, Palaniswami is said to have woken up to invigorate the cadre by issuing them fresh membership cards having his signature as general secretary and also photographs of founder M G Ramachandran, J Jayalalithaa and himself on them. The cards that would, as a party insider said, be distributed only to those whose loyalty to Palaniswami was confirmed.

So, not only will the cards help the party workers gain a sense of identity but also ensure the re-election of Palaiswami as general secretary if the call of convening the general council turns vociferous, forcing the party honchos to accept it. Besides, the top leaders who are averse to the idea of Sasikala returning to helm the party, are also doing their best to ensure that Palaniswami remains in his present position.

On the other hand there are fence sitters at all levels of the party hierarchy who might feel that there is a need for change in leadership. Since the mention of a new general secretary is likely to spring too many contenders to the fore in the party that once had just one leader, Jayalalithaa, with everyone else remaining loyal followers, Sasikala feels that she could emerge as the common candidate acceptable to the majority.

It is a different matter that Sasikala might not be able to contest in any election till 2027 and hence cannot aspire to become the Chief Minister by leading her party to a win in the 2026 Assembly elections. That she can head the party, as there is no bar on that, and choose the Chief Minister candidate is enough motivation for her to go for the kill.

The party chief post would also plunge her into the thick of politics once again and she could play the game from Poes Garden, from where Palaniswami and cohorts chased her out. She has managed to retrieve the palatial mansion opposite to Veda Nilayam, the house of Jayalalithaa, from the clutches of the Enforcement Directorate that had sealed the building even as it was getting ready for her to live there.

Though she would have liked to play her political games from Veda Nilayam, which has been taken over by the government and converted into a memorial, she is happy to at least manage the affairs of AIADMK from its vicinity. Also she has regained control and revived the other landmarks associated with Jayalalithaa – the Kodanad Estate in the Nilgiris, the Siruthavur bungalow and Payyanur bungalow.

So to get into the shoes of Jayalalithaa, all she has to do is to get hold of the reins of the party. But with Palaniswami and his associates around, it might not be that easy. Whatever, a game of one-upmanship in the AIADMK is in the offing and that could offer an interesting political spectacle to watch.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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