The majestic march of AIADMK former head honcho, O. Panneerselvam, into the party headquarters with his stormtroopers clearing the way for him and the exulting triumph over him by his hitherto joint commander-in-chief, Edappadi K. Palaniswami, 15 km away at the party’s general council meeting were both spectacles that had much ado about nothing, at least for the common man. That Mr Palaniswami effectively trumped Mr Panneerselvam or that Mr Panneerselvam, through clever stratagem, captured the seat of power effortlessly were nothing by pyrrhic victories that did not help either of them score any political brownie points or increase their popular support.
At the end of the protracted struggle for supremacy and total control of the party that should be celebrating its golden jubilee in a few months from now, Mr Palaniswami emerged as a shrewd manipulator who could herd men and women and Mr Panneerselvam as a ring leader who could organise men to do his bidding. Beyond that they displayed no political acumen to either wow the people of the state or earn encomiums from academic observers. The split between the former twins, who journeyed through the turbulent days after the demise of J. Jayalalithaa and the incarceration of V.K. Sasikala in 2017 hand in hand, sharing leadership positions in the government and the party, has brought nothing but shame and harm to their individual reputations.
As the state’s prime Opposition party with a political legacy dating back to the days of its founder M.G. Ramachandran, the AIADMK, despite not having an iconic leader like MGR or Jayalalithaa at the helm and with no specific ideological mooring to write home about, managed to win 66 seats in the 234-member Assembly and also facilitated the victory of nine alliance party candidates. That was proof enough that the people saw the party as having a role to play in the state’s political arena though cynics had felt that it would lose its relevance after the passing of Jayalalithaa in 2016. Now the inheritors of Jayalalithaa’s mantle threaten to make the doomsday prediction come true.