AIADMK coordinator and former Deputy Chief minister O. Panneerselvam (OPS) who was pipped by former Chief minister, Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) for the post of Leader of Opposition, has rejected the party offer of the post of Deputy leader in the Tamil Nadu assembly.
At the meeting held at the AIADMK headquarters on Monday, 61 of the 66 MLA’s threw their weight behind EPS, forcing Panneerselvam to accept the ground reality. A senior leader of the party who is also a legislator, while speaking to IANS said, “OPS had tried to push the name of former Speaker P. Dhanapal for the post of opposition leader but in vain and he left the party headquarters in a huff”.
This rift, which was there in the AIADMK ever since Jayalalithaa passed away and Sasikala was arrested in corruption charges, was settled amicably by the intervention of the central leadership of the BJP with even Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home minister Amit Shah involving directly in talks with the two leaders.
However, with the party out of power and the Thevar community, one of the major support base of the AIADMK in South Tamil Nadu, dividing their votes between AIADMK and AMMK of TTV Dhinakaran, the AIADMK had to bite the dust in South Tamil Nadu.
The rejection of the post of Deputy leader by Panneerselvam is a clear indication that he will not lie low in the party and there are possibilities of a rift.
Political observers feel there could be a realignment of forces with the powerful Thevar community backing their own leader, Panneerselvam. The possibilities of Sasikala and Dhinakaran extending support to Panneerselvam is also not ruled out.
P. Sivakumar, journalist and political observer while speaking to IANS said, “AIADMK is losing its Thevar base in South Tamil Nadu and it was mainly due to the split of votes to AMMK of Dhinakaran. While Dhinakaran lost in Kovilpatti, the split has helped DMK garner victories in these traditional AIADMK bastions. This will trigger the rift and OPS rejecting the post of Deputy leader is an indication that the future is not rosy for the AIADMK and EPS. If caste turns into a factor, then EPS, a Gounder will face stiff opposition from the Thevar community and it has to be seen whether Sasikala and Dhinakaran will support OPS in this fight.”
If the AIADMK was in power, these minor rifts could have been given a go by but with the party out of power and even the selection of opposition leader turning into a bitter experience, days ahead will be tough for EPS.