A year after Jayalalithaa’s death, an uneasy truce holds the AIADMK and TN government intact

TE RAJA SIMHAN Chennai | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on December 05, 2017

Remembering Jaya Flowery tribute to former TN Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at her memorial, in Chennai on Monday   -  L SRINIVASAN

A year after the death of the former Tamil Nadu CM and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa, the State government continues to bear the scars of a tumultuous transition of power in the ruling party.

The AIADMK is still a divided house though the main factions have come together, an inquiry is on into the circumstances surrounding her death in hospital, and the by-election to fill the vacant Assembly seat following her death has been slated for later this month.

Musical chair

When Jayalalithaa passed away late on December 5, 2016, she left behind a leadership vacuum with no clear second-rung leadership in place. The internal fight for power within the party resulted in months of uncertainty in the party, with fast paced changes at the top.

O Panneerselvam (OPS), who took over as CM within hours of her death, is today the Deputy Chief Minister. VK Sasikala, a close confidante of Jayalalithaa and till then a behind-the-scene power monger, took over as the party general secretary within a month of Jayalalithaa’s death.

She then edged out Panneerselvam and made a bid to become CM. Panneerselvam left in a huff, resulting in a split in the party.

Sasikala’s rise to power was stopped short in February, when she was convicted in a disproportionate assets case in which Jayalalithaa was the first accused. Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran, whom she bought in before surrendering to jail authorities, was made the deputy general secretary of the AIADMK. But since then he has been ousted by Sasikala’s protege Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS), who is now the CM.

OPS and EPS have since come together though party watchers say the truce is uneasy. The truce was necessitated to retrieve the AIADMK name and two-leaf party symbol that were frozen due to the split within the party.

Compromise for all

Both the leaders have had to settle for a compromise to retrieve the party name and symbol. OPS’s precondition to reconcile with the party included complete removal of Sasikala and all her family members, including Dhinakaran, from the party; a probe into Jayalalithaa’s death; and conversion of Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garen residence into a public memorial. But he also had to settle for being the Deputy CM after holding the top post on two occasions earlier.

But this reconciliation in August led to Dhinakaran exiting the party with the support of a couple of dozen MLAs. OPS and EPS have since managed to free the party name and symbol, which is a major strength as they gear to face the RK Nagar by-election.

Despite doubts over their ability to sustain in power, both the party and the government have managed to survive rough seas in the past one year.

“After (party founder) MG Ramachandran’s death, Jayalalithaa kept the party intact. But today it is very sad to see the party in a mess. Nearly 1.5 crore party supporters are a frustrated lot,” said Marimuthu, 74, a hardcore AIADMK worker. The monolithic party, with its leader gone, is still trying to find its feet.

Published on December 05, 2017
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