Rajya Sabha candidates: How AIADMK got 2 birds with one stone

O Panneerselvam, Edappadi K Palaniswami, East Erode bypoll
A file photo of O Panneerselvam (left) and Edappadi K Palaniswami | PTI

On Saturday (July 6), AIADMK announced that it was going with A Mohammed John and N Chandrasekaran for the July 18 Rajya Sabha elections. The announcement put an end to speculations that senior leaders V Maitreyan and M Thambidurai might be given the posts.

The terms of six Rajya Sabha members from Tamil Nadu are coming to an end this month. Of the six, four are from AIADMK — V Maitreyan, T Rathinavel, KR Arjunan and R Lakshmanan.

With its numbers in the Assembly seeing a fall after the recent bypolls, the ruling party is assured of only three seats in the Upper House.

In 2016, under the then-chief minister late J Jayalalithaa, AIADMK had sent four MPs, SR Balasubramoniyan, A Navaneethakrishnan, A Vijayakumar and R Vaithilingam to Rajya Sabha.

Of the three seats, one has been already given to ally Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK).

Around half a dozen top leaders’ names, including of Maitreyan and Thambidurai, were doing the rounds. Cadres believed that the two would be given the seats, since both of them are close to the party’s top leaders O Panneerselvam and chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.

Maitreyan grew in prominence when he supported a rebellious Panneerselvam, who had come out of the shadows of the erstwhile leadership of VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, demanding the chief ministership.

Later, when Sasikala and Dhinakaran anointed a relatively-unknown Palaniswami, it was Thambidurai who backed him. As Palaniswami grew in stature, he stopped listening to Dhinakaran, who went on to launch his own political party, the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), and paved the way for a OPS-EPS reunion.

Thambidurai got well along with Palaniswami, as both of them are from the Kongu Vellalar (Gounder) community. However, he has been pushed to a side following his criticism of the party leadership for bowing to the wishes of Narendra Modi-led BJP, which he attributed to the hurting the party’s interests.

In a jolt to him, state health minister C Vijayabhaskar’s father Chinnathambi was initially nominated from his Lok Sabha constituency Karur. The seat was later given to him, but he lost to Congress’s C Jothimani. Post-polls, he hoped that, being senior to both Panneerselvam and Palaniswami and having served in the Lok Sabha for five terms, he would be chosen for the RS seat.

On the other hand, Maitreyan’s journey began with the RSS, BJP’s ideological mentor, and had quit the BJP in 2000 to join the AIADMK. He had served in the Upper House for three terms between 2002-2004, 2007-2013 and 2013-2019. But despite lobbying with BJP leaders, he could not make the cut for the fourth term.

When The Federal tried to contact, Maitreyan refused to comment while Thambidurai was out of station.

By denying both the leaders a ticket to the Upper House of Parliament, AIADMK has signalled that it does not wish to fuel the factionalism between the groups led by Panneerselvam and Palaniswami.

In choosing Mohammed John (from the minority section) and Chandrasekaran (from the Scheduled Castes), the party has signalled its future in social inclusion.

By selecting Mohammed John, the party also fulfilled the demand of Muslim representation. It has killed two birds with one stone.