The simmering problems in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) between Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, which came out in the open on August 15, wound down on October 7, with the party announcing Palaniswami as the Chief Minister candidate for the 2021 Assembly election. Panneerselvam, who was standing in the way of this announcement, got what he had demanded three years ago – the constitution of a 11-member high power committee in the party.
The announcement was preceded by high drama: Ministers shuttled between the residences of the two warring leaders to trash out a deal and keep the party and the government intact. After over nine hours of back-and-forth, which ended early on October 7, both Panneerselvam and Palaniswami agreed to a formula of give and take where each side would give in to just one demand and leave out other outstanding issues.
The 11-member committee has six Ministers — Dindigul Srinivasan, P. Thangamani, S.P. Velumani, D. Jayakumar, C.V. Shanmugham and R. Kamaraj — and five others – J.C.T. Prabhakar, P.H. Manoj Pandian, P. Mohan, R. Gopalakrishnan, and K. Manickam. On the face of it, though Panneerselvam got his way, the fact that a majority of members are Ministers points to Palaniswami having the upper hand in this committee as well.
AIADMK observers point out that the constitution of the 11-member committee does not mean much. The power, according to the AIADMK’s amended bylaws, lies with the coordinator (Panneerselvam) and joint coordinator (Palaniswami). But the announcement of the committee was important to the extent that it gave Panneerselvam a face-saving way out: a demand that he made more than three years ago when he joined hands with Palaniswami after his revolt had been met.
Although this problem has been settled, there are many issues, both internal and external, that will crop up for the AIADMK as the State heads for the 2021 Assembly election. The biggest external issue is Sasikala, former general secretary of the party, who is likely to be released from prison in January 2021. As of now, the leaders have been vocal that Sasikala will not be admitted into the party. She cannot contest elections for the next six years, but her role is much bigger than what these leaders portray. Sasikala is a unifying force for a community that supports the AIADMK – the Mukkalathor community. The second external issue is in the form of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) leader T.T.V. Dinakaran, who will not miss an opportunity to make a comeback into the AIADMK.
The internal issues include the problems of selection of MLA candidates and sharing of party positions. The party is already facing criticism for not including a woman or senior leaders, such as Anwar Raza, in the 11-member committee. More problems will crop up at all levels as each camp tries to poach party seniors and cadre from the opponent’s camp.