A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. AIADMK co-ordinator O. Panneerselvam may be seen to have lost out in the tussle with Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami in the eyes of the media, but he may have the last laugh in June 2021 after results of the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections are announced.
The unseemly hurry with which supporters of EPS have tried to push through their formula of chief ministerial candidate with more than seven months to go for the elections could well be a case of counting the chickens before they hatch.
In Tamil, there is a saying, ‘Arasanai Nambi Purushanai Kai Vitta Kadhai’ (a person loses the husband while wishing for the King) may apply to the current goings-on in the ruling AIDMK.
For three years since the ‘merger’ of the OPS group with the EPS camp in the AIADMK, EPS had stalled implementation of a key clause, the establishment of a 11-member Steering Committee to guide the affairs of the party. It was then agreed that the EPS camp will have six members, and OPS group 5. This meant virtual parity in the key committee of the party, though OPS was hopelessly outnumbered in the AIADMK legislature party. OPS had cleverly sought this committee which would mean that his group would have to get roughly 50 per cent of all posts in the party.
This was important for OPS in order to provide posts for his supporters and also to ensure that he has sufficient power in the party, and not be a toothless leader.
While EPS may command the support of over 110 MLAs in the party, OPS has now succeeded in a 50 per cent share for his supporters in the Steering Committee. Other committees to be appointed by the party may see a similar arrangement.
When the time comes for ticket distribution around Feb-March next year, the next round tug-of-war between the two sides will surface, if not earlier.
OPS seems to have had his way, securing the Steering Committee. He cleverly used the Deputy CM post to gain supremacy for himself and his supporters in the party. While it was always clear that EPS was number one in the Government, OPS has engineered a strategy by which he is now accepted as Number One in the party. Those who held backroom talks between the two camps over the last few days concede that EPS had to agree that OPS will be Number One in the party, while EPS will concentrate on the Government. The 2017 agreement provided for dual control of the party. Having ensured that he has ‘sacrificed’ the CM post for EPS, OPS has ensured that others should make sacrifices for his group, and EPS will have to relinquish control of the party.
When talks of a merger between the AIADMK and the DMK were held in 1978-79, then senior leader of the AIADMK, Panruti S Ramachandran, told MGR not to go in for the merger (the formula was that MGR would continue to be CM while M. Karunanidhi would lead the party as President), as the real power was with the party and not with the CM. Moreover, a post of CM was temporary (a party could lose power) but the party post was permanent. MGR heeded his advice. Panruti Ramachandran is still around. Perhaps, OPS has heeded his words of wisdom spelt out over 41 years ago. The people and the media may realize in June 2021 who the real winner was on October 7, 2020.