BY VENKATACHARI JAGANNATHAN
Chennai, Oct 5 (IANS) At a time when everything was going fine for Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and ruling AIADMK Joint Coordinator K. Palaniswami, the demand for announcing the Chief Ministerial candidate for the 2021 elections by his supporters has put him on a difficult wicket, said analysts and politicians.
They also said the threat of the party going back to the position where it was soon after the death of General Secretary J. Jayalalithaa also exists owing to the power struggle.
“The going was good for Palaniswami including the general public perception about the government handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The only negative point was the reopening of liquor shops. The opposition had nothing much except complaining about corruption.
“All that Palaniswami had to do was to consolidate his position silently without precipitating any issue,” a political analyst told IANS preferring anonymity.
But it was not to be. In an apparently wrong strategy Palaniswami’s supporters raised the issue of the party announcing the Chief Ministerial candidate for the 2021 assembly elections.
“This gave the space for another Chief Minister aspirant and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam to raise the issue of forming a steering committee to guide the party,” the analyst added.
“It was a wrong strategy on the part of Chief Minister supporters to rake up the issue of Chief Ministerial candidate for the 2021 elections,” former Member of Parliament (MP) K.C. Palanisamy told IANS.
“Sitting Chief Minister will have to be the Chief Ministerial candidate and the party cannot project another person and fight the polls,” a senior leader of AIADMK told IANS preferring anonymity.
“The focus should have been on projecting the good deeds of the government so that Palaniswami would have been a default Chief Ministerial candidate. Now a sitting Chief Minister fighting to be declared as the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate. It is really a climb down for him,” the analyst added.
“Even at the recent party’s Executive Committee meeting the stage could have been managed better. Palaniswami could have agreed for a steering committee and asked Panneerselvam to give his list of nominees while settling the Chief Ministerial candidate issue then,” Palanisamy said.
“If that had been done, the entire focus would be on the Chief Ministerial candidate and the steering committee issue could have been pickled. They didn’t manage the stage well though it was laden with their supporters,” Palanisamy added.
“With elections coming closer, it is the party that will gain importance and not the government. As per the existing legal structure, the AIADMK has two leaders — Panneerselvam as Coordinator and Palaniswami as Joint Coordinator — with equal powers. No one person can even call a party meeting on his own,” the analyst said.
Negating that Palanisamy said: “The General Council can be called by party Presidium. Further a certain number of members of the General Council can demand calling of the Council meeting. Then a resolution can be passed to give the authorised signatory power to Chief Minister Palaniswami.”
According to the analyst, given this position, raising the Chief Ministerial candidate issue prematurely has rubbed Panneerselvam on the wrong side and is now asserting his position.
Without the signatures of Panneerselvam and Palaniswami, no one can file election nomination papers to contest under the party’s two leaves symbol.
While Palaniswami could say that he had steered the government to safety by securing the requisite numbers, Panneerselvam contends that he saved and secured the party from V.K. Sasikala and family by fighting against her and agreed for the number two slot.
Panneerselvam said he had not demanded the Chief Minister post nor be declared as the Chief Ministerial candidate but his only demand was setting up a steering committee as agreed earlier.
“Agreeing for the steering committee would send a signal to the party members that Panneerselvam is gaining strength and fence sitters would wait and watch,” the analyst added.
Keeping the party in a flux and delaying the critical decisions would strengthen Panneerselvam’s hands.
Meanwhile, the BJP which was instrumental in the merger of Panneerselvam faction with AIADMK, years back, is keeping silent.
Political observers say that a phone call from BJP headquarters to AIADMK to sort out the issue would have settled the issue. But no such call is forthcoming.
According to an analyst, perhaps, BJP does not want a single strong leader to emerge in AIADMK. It is better to have a party that is weak and quarreling.
Further BJP’s target would be 2024 and look at who can deliver the goods then.
“For the allies also a divided AIADMK is good as it gives them a better bargaining power for more number of seats to contest in the elections,” political analyst Kolahala Srenivaas told IANS.
A weak AIADMK is also good for DMK as it can dole out a lesser number of seats to its allies.
“The scenario would change when actor Rajinikanth floats his party. While his movie brand equity is good, he is an unknown quantity in terms of vote share. Then the allies of DMK and AIADMK will have more options and gain seat bargaining power,” an analyst pointed out.
Srenivaas wondered why Panneerselvam is raking up the steering committee issue now after remaining silent all these years.
“As per my information, a consensus is being reached on setting up a steering committee. Panneerselvam wants representation of all major castes in the committee,” Srenivaas said.
According to former MP Palanisamy, if the steering committee is formed now, Panneerselvam’s power will go up as he could insist that the selection of poll candidates will be done by the committee.
Even if the steering committee is set up and all the leaders are pacified, the AIADMK is not out of the woods.
There is a case in the Delhi High Court filed by former MP Palanisamy demanding the restoration of the powers to the party primary members to elect the General Secretary.
The duo — Palaniswami and Panneerselvam — had amended the party constitution enabling the members of the General Council to elect the Coordinator and Joint Coordinator.
Palanisamy contends that party founder M.G.Ramachandran framed the rule whereby the leader would be elected by the primary members and the rule was followed by Jayalalithaa.
“The case is coming up for hearing on October 14 in the Delhi High Court. The Delhi High Court had earlier held the change of electors disturbs the party constitution. The opposite parties may continue to dodge but ultimately the courts will decide,” Palanisamy said.
According to him, BJP is perhaps backing Panneerselvam.
But as to the future of AIADMK depends on the emergence of a leader who will not put the party subservient to any other political party or to the central government, Palanisamy added.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)