OPS-EPS feud could largely benefit BJP, say observers, leaders
The fight between Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and O Panneerselvam (OPS) to take control of the AIADMK seems to benefit the BJP, which is desperate to make inroads in Tamil Nadu.
Political analysts feel that the ongoing feud has only paved way for the saffron party to gain more ground in the state with its Hindu Nationalism and Dravidian Plus model of polarization.
“The AIADMK support base is dwindling and the primary beneficiary of the infighting would be the BJP, which is trying hard with its Hindu nationalism in the state. The secondary beneficiary would be the Naam Tamizhar party of Seeman,” said Ravindran Duraisamy, a political analyst.
Pro-Eelam and anti-Congress people in the AIADMK would move towards Naam Tamizhar party while Brahmins and other upper caste would find comfort leaning towards the BJP, added Ravindran.
“People were supporting the AIADMK because of leaders like MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa. Both these leaders took strong stand against the Congress. Though identified as upper caste, they almost succeeded in projecting themselves as secular when it came to politics. With Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa long gone and their influence remaining only on paper, people who followed them will now move to another party,” said Ravindran.
The infighting within the AIADMK touched a new high on Monday night after the O Panneerselvam camp released an audio clip of a supposed conversation between former minister and senior AIADMK leader Ponnaiyan, a supporter of Edappadi K Palaniswami and an AIADMK worker from Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu.
In the audio conversation, Ponnaiyan is reportedly heard telling his party cadre Kolappan that former AIADMK ministers C.Ve Shanmugam, SP Velumani and Thangamani have the support of MLAs of their own caste.
Hours after the audio was released, Ponnaiyan said the voice in the audio in question was not his and it was mimicked using technology. Ponnaiyan told The Federal, “I don’t associate with the content in the conversation. I support Edappadi K Palaniswami and that’s my stand.” However, the issue has opened a can of worms. For a very long time, it has been alleged that AIADMK is functioning on caste lines.
Speaking to The Federal, Kolappan said that former minister C.Ve Shanmugam, who is now a Rajya Sabha legislator, got an MP ticket mainly because of his caste. “He (Shanmugam) got the signature of 23 MLAs belonging to the Vanniya Padayatchi (a Most Backward Community) and showed it to Edappadi K Palaniswami to get the MP seat. Similarly, SP Velumani and Thangamani, belonging to the Gounder Community (a Backward Community) have the support of 42 MLAs belonging to the kongu vellalar gounder community (a Backward community),” Kolappan said.
Kolappan also confirmed that he spoke to Ponnaiyan, which was heard in the clip. He also expressed his displeasure at seeing AIADMK in the backseat in state politics because of infighting. “It’s only BJP’s Annamalai who is criticizing the DMK government and MK Stalin. Though we are the main opposition in the assembly, on the ground, it looks like the BJP is in the second position after DMK,” Kolappan said.
A former AIADMK minister also thinks that the whole drama has only benefited the BJP. “However, once this issue is sorted out, we will bounce back. There is no election immediately. We will sort out the issue in a few months. We will focus on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and prove that AIADMK supporters are with us,” the minister said, declining to be named.
However, Ravindran Duraisamy differed and said that people are only standing by the two-leaves symbol and not behind any leader. “If Edappadi K Palaniswami contests on a different symbol, he’ll know the true numbers,” Ravindran said.
AIADMK spokesperson Babu Murugavel, who is a supporter of Palaniswami, maintained that the internal feud had not weakened the party and they are still strong.