More than a dozen key party functionaries and leaders from the AIADMK have jumped ship and joined the ruling party DMK in the last one month. One of the major reasons touted by these political turncoats for switching camps is largely because the party’s leadership, especially, the AIADMK co-coordinator Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) has sidelined them.
This development comes at a time when the local body polls are around the corner. In December 2019, the state had conducted local body elections in 27 districts in rural Tamil Nadu. Since the delimitation process had not been completed, the elections were not carried out in the newly-carved out constituencies in nine districts.
A case was filed in the Madras High Court, and an order was passed to conduct the polls in the remaining districts before September 15. Moreover, the state also plans to hold the urban local body polls shortly as well.
On July 11, a former minister Thoppu N D Venkatachalam joined the DMK, following his expulsion from the party earlier this year. This MLA has been elected to the state assembly from Perundurai constituency in 2011 and 2016. He had even served as environment, and revenue department minister in Jayalalithaa’s cabinet between 2011 and 2016.
One of the recognisable names in the AIADMK party and a known face in Erode district, he was not given a seat in the last state assembly election. Hence, he had contested independently and lost. He was however summarily expelled from the party for going against the party principles.
The Federal has learnt that Venkatachalam was ignored by EPS since the latter had given a free hand to his own relative to control the Perundurai assembly segment. Moreover, Venkatachalam was upset that S Jayakumar, who had in the past contested against the AIADMK in the local body polls, was given the Perundurai seat. However, Jayakumar won the seat.
When Venkatachalam wrote a letter to EPS asking him to expel Jayakumar from the party, he had turned it down.
‘Sycophancy at best’
The DMK has welcomed Venkatachalam since his entry would help to strengthen the party base in Erode, which comes under the Kongu belt. Considering the DMK is struggling to get a foothold in the Kongu belt and is being criticised for neglecting this region, admitting Venkatachalam into the party is being seen by political observers as a calculated move by the DMK.
Dr Mahendran, who was earlier with MNM and has recently joined the DMK fold, is also from Kongu Nadu.
In the near future, more senior leaders are expected to switch their allegiance to the DMK. Two or three leaders, who are moving to the DMK are reportedly leaving the AIADMK because they are unhappy with the party’s continuing alliance with the BJP. They feel that the alliance will cost them in the upcoming local body polls.
KC Palanisamy, a former AIADMK MP pointed out, “Giving a seat in the election is not a big thing. You should be entrusted with responsibilities within the party and you must be respected and trusted by the leadership. But that is not happening in the party at all now. There is only sycophancy.”
Further, he added that not just Venkatachalam, former Namakkal MP, PR Sundaram and the former Rajya Sabha MP, Vijila Sathyananth were not treated well.
PR Sundaram has been elected to the state assembly twice in 1996 and 2001 from Rasipuram constituency. In 1996, when AIADMK lost all the seats, Sundaram was one among the only four leaders who had won that election.
“That time the DMK tried to attract him by using various methods. But Sundaram being loyal to MGR and Jayalalithaa, refused to shift loyalties. If he had been given a seat in Thiruchengode constituency in this election, he would have won,” said Palanisamy.
‘EPS thinks he is more than Amma’
Talking to The Federal, Sundaram said that EPS believed he is more powerful than Amma (Jayalalithaa).
Having been in the AIADMK from the time of MGR, he was responsible for bringing former electricity minister, Thangamani into the party.
However, Sundaram alleged that Thangamani had backstabbed him. Sundaram said, “In 2011, as the Namakkal district secretary, Thangamani allotted that seat to an alliance party depriving me of the seat. In the 2014 Parliamentary elections, Amma herself called me and gave me a seat. I won with by 3 lakh votes. In 2019, I was not given a seat and the party lost in Namakkal. This time too, I was not given a seat and the party lost in Thiruchengode.”
Today, Thangamani is reportedly an ardent supporter of EPS. According to Sundaram, the AIADMK has still not examined the reason behind their defeat in the recent assembly election.
“Some blame it on the BJP. But the true reason is the 10.5 per cent reservation given to the PMK. However, EPS will not accept this. He acts on his own. There is no recognition for old hands like us. The party is not ready to accept EPS as its leader. Still, he thinks he is more than Amma,” alleged Sundaram.
‘Shifting is for self-interest’
Questioned on why the senior leaders were leaving the party, Semmalai, another senior leader in the AIADMK replied that they were expelled.
“They did not leave the party. We have removed them and they can join any other party. But why are they choosing the ruling party? It is for pure self-interest,” he added.
A case in point being Vijila Sathyananth, said Semmalai. “She was made Mayor of Tirunelveli Corporation and a Rajya Sabha member. She was also given the post of State secretary of women’s wing. What more did she want? Similarly, Sundaram was cared for well,” he added.
According to Semmalai, he was not given a seat in this election. “But, is it right to criticise the leadership for not giving a seat? How can you say that the party has become authoritative under EPS? Would you talk like this if Amma was alive?” asked Semmalai.
These political turncoats are just “isolated trees”, he said, adding that this is not a trend.
Moreover, he said that they were not worried about leaders who had left them. “It is because if we lose one person, we add nine more members. So, there is no reason for us to fear that we will lose the local body elections,” added Semmalai.