EPS, OPS tussle continues in AIADMK over Opposition leader

The fight for the top slot as opposition leader in Tamil Nadu continues unabated between former Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) and his Deputy, O. Panneerselvam (OPS) in the AIADMK.

While the supporters of EPS are pitching to make him the opposition leader as they argue that the party won maximum seats from his home turf of Salem where the party won 10 out of the 11 seats at stake. In western Tamil Nadu and northern Tamil Nadu also the writ of EPS ran across the constituencies. Moreover, EPS won his Edappadi seat with a margin of 93,802 votes over his DMK rival Sampath Kumar, which is the highest vote margin of an incumbent Chief minister in the history of Tamil Nadu elections.

While the AIADMK could win 32 of the 54 seats in Western Tamil Nadu, which is the bastion of EPS, in South Tamil Nadu which is considered the stronghold of OPS, the party could muster only 16 of the 60 seats. The AIADMK was strong in this area where the “Thevar” community of OPS was ruling the roost especially in Theni district- the home turf of OPS.

However in the 2021 assembly elections, the only AIADMK leader who was elected from Theni district was OPS from his traditional constituency of Bodinayakanur with a victory margin of 11,021 votes over his nearest DMK rival Thanga Tamil Selvan.

There was slogan shouting for both EPS and OPS during the party executive meeting held at the AIADMK headquarters on Friday. The OPS faction is of the feeling that the last minute reservation announced by EPS for the Vanniyar community resulted in the defeat of several AIADMK candidates from other communities in many parts of Tamil Nadu and the outgoing Chief minister has to be held responsible for that.

The Tamil Nadu assembly secretariat on Saturday announced the election date of the Speaker of the assembly on May 12. It is customary that the Speaker is to be led to the chair by the Chief minister and the leader of opposition. This means that the opposition leader has to be announced by May 11.

It also remains to be seen whether the BJP which had played a key role in bringing up a bonhomie between the two warring leaders will chip in with a compromise formula.