The festering feud between the two rival factions in the AIADMK led by chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam (OPS), has come out in the open and reached a flashpoint on Monday (March 8), as the OPS group stuck to its demand for a 50 per cent share of party tickets in the upcoming state Assembly polls.
Two weeks ago, The Federal had predicted that the AIADMK would be gripped by internal strife as well as external pressure from allies over seat distribution, with the OPS group strongly resisting efforts by the EPS group to dominate finalizing the list of party candidates to be fielded by the party.
The OPS group has been clearly fighting hard to restrain the EPS group from gaining an upper hand and cornering most of the seats, which will eventually lead to the domination of the EPS group in a post-poll scenario.
OPS has been making his moves according to his game-plan to gain more control of the AIADMK party from the EPS faction. Earlier, he had strategically delayed endorsing EPS as the chief ministerial candidate, only to secure a near 50% share in the party’s highest decision-making body, the steering committee. Now, he is intent on securing 50% of seats to be allotted by the party for his own candidates, in a desperate effort to reduce the support base of the EPS group.
While officially OPS has the support of only 10 MLAs, EPS is backed by a group of ministers from the western belt of the state, largely on a caste basis. This group comprises of 30 to 40 MLAs. It is with the backing of this vocal group that EPS has had his way, since the other 70-odd MLAs are considered fence-sitters.
OPS believes this situation, which has him on the back-foot, will only change if his supporters get an equal share of party tickets. And, the dynamics within the party can then undergo a transformation, once Assembly election results are out on May 2.
This political strategy is unfolding in full measure, with the result that the Chief Minister EPS is said to be upset over OPS group’s insistence for 50% share of the seats. He confined himself to his residence on May 8 discussing the developments with a few ministers. Later, in the evening, senior leaders reportedly mediated between EPS and OPS and convinced them to attend to party work at the headquarters. For one, the seat-sharing exercise with the allies has to be completed in a day or two.
On March 8 evening, OPS and EPS resumed discussions over sharing seats in the elections. The AIADMK has been able to release the names of only six of its candidates so far, who are senior leaders. A second list has been delayed due to the internal squabbling between the EPS and OPS factions.
EPS has reasons to be anxious. He realises that once OPS secures his objective of a reasonable share of seats, the tussle in the AIADMK over leadership will be reopened after the elections are over. However, OPS knows that he holds the trump card right now – his signature is required on the B Form, which alone will provide the AIADMK candidates the right to use the AIADMK two leaves symbol.
Meanwhile, AIADMK party members are worried about the possibility of a deadlock, if the two groups fail to patch-up and this could affect the process of nominations to be filed by party candidates.