Voices supporting the re-induction of expelled leaders V K Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dhinakaran in AIADMK grew louder on Wednesday, a week after the party was routed in the urban local body polls.
The demand came from Theni, the native district of former chief minister and AIADMK’s coordinator O Panneerselvam. AIADMK’s Theni district secretary Syed Khan and other office-bearers on Wednesday night met Panneerselvam at his farmhouse in the district to hand him over a resolution asking the party high command to bring back everyone who left after the death of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa on December 16, 2016.
“He (OPS) said he will look into our demands,” Khan told reporters. “This is just the beginning. Such meetings will be held across the state. Our main demand is that we should unite. For you, the known faces are Chinnamma (Sasikala) and TTV. But there are many other people.”
Time and again, there has been a section in the AIADMK which wanted Sasikala back even as she continues to reclaim the party from where she left off – as interim general secretary (the topmost post) — but in vain. While Panneerselvam has been in favour of Sasikala’s return, joint coordinator Edapaddi Palaniswami — the numero uno of the party hough the duo shares equal powers on paper — has managed to keep the party away any form of rebellion. Both Panneerselvam and Palaniswami were propped up by Sasikala before she went to Bengaluru jail in the disproportionate assets case in 2017. Before she was released last February, the duo had united against her and solidified a dual leadership.
Reacting to the development, Dhinakaran told reporters in Chennai that he can comment only after AIADMK arrives at a formal decision. “Maybe they are thinking that if we are united we could have defeated the DMK even in the assembly polls,” Dhinakaran said. “But I’m not thinking about them (AIADMK). They have to do introspection. After they arrive at a decision, I will discuss with my cadre and then only can I make a decision.”
Ahead of the elections, the party had lost its allies one by one with a mutual agreement that they will contest alone to test their strengths but given the results and BJP making a mark, senior AIADMK leaders were of the decision that they should do away with the saffron party and make themselves stronger with a Dravidian stance.
And the chorus for Sasikala is likely to grow in the coming days, feel AIADMK leaders. A senior AIADMK leader said the Theni district unit passing a resolution in favour of Sasikala and Dhinakaran is an outcome of the strained relationship between Panneerselvam and Palaniswami. “They are not even talking to each other,” said the leader, not wishing to be quoted. “The dual leadership would be fine but if a section of our cadre wants her back and if it will strengthen our vote bank then the high command must have that conversation.”
Joining hands will mean that AIADMK can collect Sasikala’s caste-based vote bank along with Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam — a breakaway faction — which has been eating into the AIADMK’s votes particularly in Tamil Nadu’s southern districts.
Political experts say that Panneerselvam’s moves are to show Palaniswami and his supporters that he too is powerful. As former chief minister, Palaniswami grew powerful within the party and in turn made Gounders, the community he belongs, to also rise. This sidelined Panneerselvam and the Thevars, the community he and Sasikala belong to. “At the end of the day nothing can be done in the party unless both leaders sign. And neither Panneerselvam nor Palaniswami will give up their power of signature,” said analyst Raveendran Duraisamy.