The well worn out adage that there are no permanent friends or foes in politics was brought to the fore once again last week. Erstwhile foes, O Panneerselvam (OPS) met TTV Dhinakaran, with a promise to patch up with VK Sasikala. Their objective is to take on the “evil force” DMK and the “betrayers” in the AIADMK.
People tracking Tamil Nadu politics will recall that in early 2017, it was OPS who sat on a ‘Satyagraha’ at Jayalalithaa’s samadhi to keep the Sasikala faction out of the AIADMK. Edappadi Palaniswamy (EPS), who was chosen as Chief Minister then by Sasikala, consolidated his position both within the government and the party, eased considerably by Sasikala’s incarceration in the “disproportionate assets” case. OPS and EPS then entered into an uneasy truce to save the AIADMK government nudged in no small measure by the BJP central leadership.
But once AIADMK lost power in the 2021 elections the gloves were off and the EPS and OPS factions have been at loggerheads since.
Tamil Nadu, like other parts of the country, has a hoary history of political flip-flops. After decimating the Congress in the 1967 elections, the DMK helped Indira Gandhi win a crucial vote of confidence in 1971. Barely four years after being dismissed by Indira Gandhi, DMK once again allied with the Congress and swept the 1980 Lok Sabha elections.
After a long stint with the non-Congress, non-BJP Third Front in the late 1980s to 1990s, the DMK had no qualms in joining hands with the BJP in 1999. It even entered the Vajpayee government holding important portfolios such as Commerce and Environment. In fact DMK patriarch Karunanidhi then even quipped that AB Vajapyee was the “right man in the wrong party”.
On the eve of the 2004 elections, the DMK promptly switched sides by joining the Congress-led UPA bagging plum portfolios.
All eyes on BJP
The BJP has now emerged as an arbiter in AIADMK’s factional feud, a role which it has relished. This time around, AIADMK’s EPS faction, which is firmly in control of the party machinery, has frowned at the prospect of the BJP supporting the OPS-Dhinakaran-Sasikala triumvirate.
The BJP for now is keeping its cards close to its chest. But given that the Lok Sabha elections are barely a year away, it will soon have to reveal its hand.