The latest feud between the AIADMK’s Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) and O Panneerselvam (OPS) is now a familiar affair in Tamil Nadu’s political sphere. It all started with this week’s brief assembly session, which sparked a political firestorm. Palaniswami and the MLAs who supported him boycotted the session on October 18 after Speaker M Appavu refused to alter the seating arrangements, which forced EPS and OPS to sit next to one another. OPS, however, along with three other MLAs who backed him, marked their presence in the assembly.
The EPS faction had hoped that the Speaker would agree to All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)’s RB Udhayakumar replacing OPS as the next deputy leader of the opposition. Not a single MLA from Palaniswami’s faction participated in the state assembly meeting on October 17. Only OPS and his backers in the legislature were present.
Earlier, Panneerselvam said that he and his supporters will abide by the Speaker’s decision, days after EPS wrote to the assembly speaker, asking for OPS’s removal from the position of deputy leader of opposition.
On October 18, there was chaos in the assembly as AIADMK legislators continued to chant slogans against the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Following this, Palaniswami and his supporters staged a dharna inside the assembly as speaker Appavu ordered the expulsion of AIADMK members. Meanwhile, DMK leader Durai Murugan accused the AIADMK of tarnishing the dignity of the opposition as talks about the claims concerning late CM J Jayalalithaa’s death and Aruna Jagadeesan’s report on the Thoothukudi firing would expose the atrocities of the party’s regime earlier.
Speaker Appavu said, “There’s some scepticism that EPS and his legislators are behaving in such a way as they have to support the resolution opposing Hindi imposition if they show up here.” The next day, the EPS-led AIADMK faction protested against being expelled from the assembly by donning black shirts at Chennai’s Valluvar Kottam.
Eventually, OPS backed a resolution that chief minister MK Stalin had introduced opposing the “imposition of Hindi” by declaring, “The AIADMK totally and unequivocally accepts the resolution.”
To corner the AIADMK, the DMK government presented two reports on the same day in the assembly. One was from the Justice Arumugasamy Commission, which was established in 2017 as a need for OPS’s merger with EPS and investigated the death of former chief minister Jayalalithaa. The panel harshly criticised OPS and accused VK Sasikala, close aide of Jayalalithaa, as well as other notable figures. OPS responded for the first time on October 20 to a question regarding the Arumugasamy Commission report. According to OPS, “Some of the people who have been charged in it intend to move court, therefore until the matter is through, I do not like to comment on it.”
The other was the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission report, which looked into the 2018 police firing in Thoothukudi that resulted in the deaths of 13 anti-Sterlite demonstrators. The commission criticised EPS for being “lethargic in failing to act on a critical intelligence” and suggested action against 17 policemen, a district collector, and other people.
With inputs from News18