By Sushil Kutty
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) who will henceforth remain in sole control of the AIADMK. It is a blow to rival O Panneerselvam (OPS), and a setback to the BJP’s Tamil Nadu ambitions. That said, the top court only upheld an order of the Madras High Court while at the same time dismissing a batch of Panneerselvam petitions.
So, does that mean that J Jayalalithaa’s prediction that the AIADMK will exist for 100 years is coming true? “It’s a wonderful verdict,” an AIADMK leader said with a firecracker going off with a bang behind him. Whether justice won or did not win isn’t the question, how Tamil Nadu politics will unfold hereafter was the question everybody was asking, especially in the context of general elections 2024.
And does the clear verdict bring down the curtains on the turmoil in AIADMK that was triggered by J Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016? That was when the OPS-EPS power struggle began in earnest, the fight to establish a successor; especially because there was no VK Sasikala to leaven up the broth.
The February 23 verdict has been termed “historic”, and an end to the latest version of the war between the ‘Pandavas’ and the ‘Kauravas’. And no guesses on who won! Coming from the Dravidians, Mahabharata and Pandavas and Kauravas, sounded odd and out of place in a Dravidian stronghold. Whatever happens to BJP aspirations from now on is a matter to consider.
What matters to the BJP is, OPS has lost, and EPS has won. OPS, today, is in a similar dhow like the one that capsized and sank off the coast of Mumbai. OPS is the Uddhav Thackeray of Tamil Nadu. In both cases, the Supreme Court played a significant role in the sinking.
O Panneerselvam was the man who J Jayalalithaa trusted. His nemesis Edappadi K Palaniswami was the man who VK Sasikala trusted. The overburdened Supreme Court, with upwards of 60,000 unheard of cases in the backlog, miraculously found time to hear the OPS/EPS case and give a verdict.
Now, EPS is the sole leader of the AIADMK. OPS (Panneerselvam) and his aides are up the river without a paddle. OPS is 72 and it’s a fair guess whether there’s any fight left in him. He had served J Jayalalithaa with utmost insincerity, and servility. The feeling is that OPS will not give up, not yet. He will hang around in the company of the BJP.
Just like Uddhav Thackeray will be in the company of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar. OPS draws strength from RSS ideologue and Swadeshi mascot S. Gurumurthy. But EPS has the upper hand. Almost all the AIADMK MLAs are with EPS. So are district secretaries and a big number of General Council, also.
Last but not least, general secretary EPS follows in the illustrious footsteps of previous general secretaries like the inimitable M G Ramachandran, the empress-like Jayalalithaa, and the slippery V K Sasikala. OPS never got to become general secretary of the AIADMK.
Compared to OPS, EPS appeared to get all the luck; i.e., apart from being considered highly competent and hardworking. OPS was ever the stop-gap workhorse with no notable spark in him. J Jayalalithaa trusted him to keep the Chief Minister’s chair warm for her whenever she had to take a forced vacation.
OPS was a BJP man in the AIADMK. The Supreme Court order leaving OPS in the cold is a setback to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Also, this has its significance. In Dravid-a-land your equation with the ‘Hindutva’ can be suicidal. Hereafter, the BJP will have to look elsewhere. Compared to EPS, OPS was completely in the sway of the BJP.
Like they say, you are known by the company you keep. This elemental truth has come to bite OPS. The BJP with its “overbearing Centre” cost OPS and will likely cost all the way to 2024. OPS’s equation with RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy, and with VK Sasikala, did not win him friends.
EPS is still an unknown entity for the BJP. And he has a reputation for being standoffish and aloof when it suits him. But where OPS would come down to his knees, EPS does not have a single subservient bone in him. And unlike the BJP’s wunderkind K Annamalai, he isn’t the talkative cousin of a chatterbox!
Come 2024, Tamil Nadu will have the same significance it had in 2014 and 2019. Depending on which of the two Dravidian parties wins the majority of seats will decide the churn in politics. For the BJP, the consolidation of an independent AIADMK led by a resolute leader, post the Supreme Court verdict, isn’t great news to write home about. (IPA Service)