What the merger means for AIADMK and Tamil Nadu

N Ramakrishnan Chennai | Updated on January 09, 2018

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Despite being sidelined, Dhinakaran is no bit player

A former chief minister — and one who had stood in for the party supremo on two occasions — agreeing to play second fiddle to one who was a minister in his Cabinet only reflects the surreal truce that the factions led by O Panneerselvam and Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami have struck.

The two factions have come together after TTV Dhinakaran, who is the AIADMK’s Deputy General Secretary, threatened to pull out MLAs loyal to him from the party, if party chief VK Sasikala is removed from the post. Sasikala, who is Dhinakaran’s aunt, is serving a 4-year jail term in Bengaluru.

As expected, the Dhinakaran camp has rubbished the merger and said any attempts to remove Sasikala from the party post – one of the conditions that Panneerselvam had laid down for the merger – would result in the collapse of the government itself. The Dhinakaran camp claims the support of about 22 MLAs, a number large enough to pose a threat to the government’s survival if it were asked to undergo a vote of confidence in the Assembly.

The Opposition, led by the DMK, and others have been quick to run down the merger, alleging that both Palaniswami and Panneerselvam have been kowtowing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and that the merger has been orchestrated by the BJP, which hopes to make electoral capital out of the union. The AIADMK is expected to join the ruling NDA at the Centre and may even be accommodated in the Cabinet.

With the merger, the AIADMK hopes to retrieve its ‘two leaves’ symbol, which was frozen before the by-election to the RK Nagar Assembly constituency in Chennai, necessitated following Chief Minister and AIADMK General Secretary J Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016.

Extended uncertainty

The suspense for the supporters of the two factions may be over, but things are far from being normal in Tamil Nadu, which has suffered for quite some time due to lack of governance and absence of a strong political leadership. DMK Working President MK Stalin has so far played his cards right, preferring to wait for the government to fall under the weight of its own contradictions rather than be accused of pulling down a democratically elected government.

BJP’s political calculus

The BJP must be eyeing huge gains in the State, where it does not have much of a presence. It must be banking on Modi’s popularity – something that may not exactly work in its favour given the widespread anger against the Centre’s perceived pro-Hindi tilt. However, in the absence of strong State-level cadre and leaders, the party’s attempts may not amount to much. The merger will help the Centre, thanks to MPs that the AIADMK has in both Houses.

The BJP’s calculation must be that aligning with the AIADMK will help it win crucial seats in the 2019 Parliamentary polls. But then an AIADMK led by a J Jayalalithaa is different from what the party has now become.

If Dhinakaran decides to brazen it out. He has nothing to lose if the government falls; and why would he want to fade away into oblivion. Iét may still be some time before the AIADMK gets back its symbol. That means the only winner will be the DMK.

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Published on August 21, 2017
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