Is Sasikala wooing Thevar community to take over AIADMK?
Leader of Opposition in the Tamil Nadu assembly and former Chief Minister of the state, E. Palaniswami(EPS) had on Saturday met his former Deputy in the AIADMK government, O Panneerselvam (OPS) in a bid to break the ice, at a city hotel.
Chennai: Leader of Opposition in the Tamil Nadu assembly and former Chief Minister of the state, E. Palaniswami(EPS) had on Saturday met his former Deputy in the AIADMK government, O Panneerselvam (OPS) in a bid to break the ice, at a city hotel. However other than ironing out the differences between the two, sources in the AIADMK pointed out that it was an attempt by EPS to convince OPS of the danger looming on the horizon with former interim general secretary VK Sasikala trying to make a takeover bid for the party.
While both Palaniswami and Panneerselvam had maintained that Sasikala was not a threat to the party, there is serious thinking within the AIADMK on the possibility of the former aide of J Jayalalithaa trying to take over the party using her goodwill in the powerful Thevar community of Tamil Nadu.
Sasikala had entered Chennai in a convoy of 1000 vehicles to publicly announce her return to active politics but she was cold shouldered by both Palaniswami and Panneerselvam.
Former minister and AIADMK leader CVe Shanmugham had on Monday in a press conference openly said that Sasikala does not have membership of the AIADMK and has no role in the party. He was referring to the political developments over some leaked voice clips in which Sasikala is heard telling AIADMK cadres that she would come back to active politics and take over the party.
Shanmugham scoffed at this and said that in the AIADMK it is the rank and file and not any single individual who decides about the party and added that Sasikala is a rank outsider and was just an aide to J Jayalalithaa in her heydays.
In the 2021 assembly elections, the AIADMK lost out mainly in Southern Tamil Nadu which has a dominant presence of the Thevar community to which both Sasikala and Panneerselvam belong.
Rumours were rife that Sasikala would use her clout in the Thevar community and win over Panneerselvam and thereby try to enter the AIADMK and take over the party with her nephew and AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran in tow.
Sources in the AIADMK told IANS that EPS has conveyed to OPS in their meeting at a Chennai hotel on Saturday that if he (OPS) aligns with the Sasikala camp, the NDA government at the Centre would not extend its support to him and that politically it would be curtains for him.
Sasikala on the other hand, according to political observers, will not be cowed down and is trying to reach out to the party middle level leaders including district presidents to try and take over the party. It is learnt that she had tried to open up channels with New Delhi, but with EPS firmly in the saddle the BJP government at the Centre seems in no mood to upset the present balance. It had, according to AIADMK sources, communicated to EPS not to break with Panneerselvam and to check mate Sasikala.
Political Observer and Director of Centre for Policy and Development Studies, C Rajeev while speaking to IANS said, "The only strength of Sasikala is her claim of influence in the Thevar community but with Panneerselvam, another Thevar, not backing Sasikala she may have difficulty in getting the support of the AIADMK middle-level leadership including district presidents. Palaniswami seems to have conveyed the danger of Panneerselvam being relegated once Sasikala is back in the party. Panneerselvam has himself emerged as a powerful leader of the Thevar community and without his support, Sasikala may not be able to wrest control of the party. Moreover, Sasikala's image is not good among the people of Tamil Nadu and the possibility of her taking over the AIADMK at this point in time is bleak."