The feud between Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam in Tamil Nadu has escalated into a no-holds-barred war, with the Chief Minister deciding that he would go to any length to cut the deputy Chief Minister down to size.
The latest in a series of problems between the two is over Thanga Tamilselvan, a former MLA, who has burnt his bridges with the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) and is ready to return to the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). According to a source familiar with the developments within the AIADMK, the Chief Minister wants Tamilselvan in the party, while the Deputy Chief Minister is bitterly opposed to it.
Thanga Tamilselvan rose to prominence in 2001 after he vacated his MLA seat for former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to contest. He was later made the party’s district secretary in Theni, which is O. Panneerselvam’s political home ground. Subsequently, Jayalalithaa made Panneerselvam the Theni district secretary replacing Tamilselvan. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Tamilselvan contested against Panneerselvam’s son, O.P. Raveendranath and lost. Raveendranath was the only AIADMK candidate to win in Tamil Nadu.
With the election victory and his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi before that, Panneerselvam managed to gain some leverage within the party. But Palaniswami is convinced, after assessing the mood of top functionaries of the party at a meeting in Chennai in June, that he has the support to take on Panneerselvam. It was on the walls near the venue of this meeting—the AIADMK headquarters on Lloyds Road—that posters appeared, on the day of the meeting, seeking a strong, single leadership of Palaniswami (as against the dual leadership).
Panneerselvam did not take kindly to the posters, and counter-posters appeared in other parts of the State asking Panneerselvam to take over the reins of the party and the government. Party insiders say that despite these issues within the party, there is no danger to the government because there is a common understanding that no one within the AIADMK wants to face an election at this point.
Despite the upheavals within the AMMK, its leader, T.T.V. Dhinakaran, seemed unmoved and spent his time on social media talking about issues relevant to the people. On June 26, even as Thanga Tamilselvan criticised Dhinakaran’s leadership at Madurai airport, Dhinakaran questioned the decision of the Cauvery Authority to release water as and when it rains. The same day, he condemned, on Twitter, the imposition of Hindi in Tamil Nadu and cautioned that the attempts to destroy the diversity of India would never succeed.
But Dhinakaran’s supporters ridiculed Tamilselvan and asked why he was still hanging on in the party. “He should quit the party and do what he wants instead of talking like this,” said Pugazhendhi, a senior functionary, who is close to both Sasikala and Dhinakaran. Another senior, P. Vetrivel, asked why Tamilselvan was raising these issues now. An AMMK supporter summed it up on Twitter thus: “We have seen betrayal of OPS; then EPS and now Thanga Tamilselvan. When EPS/OPS betrayed us, we didn’t lose hope. TTS is just another mere betrayer.”