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The 2017 AIADMK crisis and the 2022 Shiv Sena crisis: Remarkable parallels

Print edition : Aug 05, 2022 T+T-

The 2017 AIADMK crisis and the 2022 Shiv Sena crisis: Remarkable parallels

O. Panneerselvam addressing mediapersons after ending his ‘meditation’ in front of J. Jayalalithaa’s memorial at the Marina beach in February 2017.

O. Panneerselvam addressing mediapersons after ending his ‘meditation’ in front of J. Jayalalithaa’s memorial at the Marina beach in February 2017. | Photo Credit: PTI

Both Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, the calm rebel who tried to recapture the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in 2017, broke ranks over ideological issues, real or perceived, five years apart.

There are many parallels between them. Both have ended up weakening their respective political parties, left the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at an advantage in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu respectively, and have not managed to cement their own positions in their parties yet.

A few months after the February 2017 launch of Panneerselvam’s ‘dharma yudh’ at AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa’s memorial at the Marina, the people of India became aware that his aim of taking back the AIADMK from the then general secretary, Sasikala, citing the fact that she was part of the ‘Mannargudi Mafia’, was a plan that was conceived by Sangh Parivar elements.

One self-styled kingmaker of that time who still runs a parivar outfit claimed that he was the one who asked Panneerselvam to go sit in meditation at Jayalalithaa’s memorial to seek ‘justice’. In the case of Shinde, the rebel MLAs travelling to the BJP-ruled States of Gujarat, Assam, and, finally, to Goa, was a dead giveaway as to who was calling the shots.

Legal questions

Unlike the unmaking of the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu which took minimal effort, Project Shiv Sena took as many as five attempts and two-and-a-half years to accomplish. Like in the case of the Sena, where several legal questions have been raised but are yet to be decided, several legal questions were raised in the case of the AIADMK too, and two very important questions are yet to find a resolution in the highest court in India.

In the case of the AIADMK, the Supreme Court is yet to pronounce its judgment on an act that qualifies for automatic disqualification of an MLA–the act of voting against the party in the Assembly after a three-line whip had been issued. This 2017 case (popularly known as the 11 MLAs case) is yet to be concluded in the Supreme Court although a set of new Assembly members have since taken office in Tamil Nadu in 2021.

The Supreme Court is also yet to pronounce its judgment in a 2016 Tamil Nadu Assembly election case–that of the current Speaker M. Appavu, who claimed that he had won the 2016 election from the Radhapuram constituency. His AIADMK rival, I.S. Inbathurai, was declared winner. Given the precarious nature of the AIADMK government in 2017, this one vote was exceedingly valuable.

After the 2016 polls, Appavu had approached the Madras High Court and a recount was ordered. Though the result was supposed to remain a secret, many in the know are aware of the result. It was at this stage that a Supreme Court stay came into play.

Soon after Jayalalithaa’s death on December 6, 2016, Panneerselvam was sworn in Chief Minister. He lasted exactly two months and tendered his resignation, after Sasikala demanded it, on February 6, 2017.