AIADMK leadership tussle: OPS fights for space as EPS gains support

AIADMK coordinator O Panneerselvam on Monday urged for the postponement of the general council meeting scheduled for 23 June.

ByUmar Sharieef

Published Jun 21, 2022 | 5:42 PMUpdatedJul 22, 2022 | 10:38 AM

AIADMK leaders O Panneerselvam (second from left) and E Palaniswami (third from left) at a part meeting. (Twitter/AIADMKOfficial)

The tussle between O Panneerselvam (OPS) and Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) for supremacy in the AIADMK touched new heights on Monday, 20 June.

The party currently follows a dual-leadership model with OPS holding the post of coordinator and EPS the joint coordinator.

Paneerselvam on Monday urged for the postponement of the general council meeting scheduled for 23 June.

“A letter urging EPS, joint coordinator of the AIADMK, to postpone the general council meeting has been sent by OPS,” party deputy secretary R Vaithilingam told reporters on Monday.

Reacting to it, deputy coordinator KP Munusamy told reporters on Monday that the meeting would take place on 23 June, and added that they didn’t receive any letter.

Split in AIADMK?

OPS and Vaithilingam, in their letter dated 19 June, said the party’s office-bearers have demanded that they should be the special invitees to the general council meeting, considering the uneasy situation caused by the single leadership issue.

“Many office-bearers have contacted us over the phone and demanded that they be allowed into the general council meeting. They argued they were allowed into previous such meetings as special invitees,” Vaithiyalingam said during a press conference.

He added that the postponement of the general council meeting would help prevent law and order issues as confusions continue to prevail within the party cadre.

With clamour growing for single leadership within the party, a fight for relevance and supremacy has begun between the two leaders.

The issue popped up for the first time since 2017, when the AIADMK passed a resolution in the general council meeting declaring the late J Jayalalithaa as its permanent secretary and introduced the dual-leadership system to run the party after her demise.

More recently, district secretaries raised the need for single leadership at a meeting on 14 June.

Since then, many other district secretaries and senior leaders have joined the chorus.

On June 15, senior leaders and former minister D Jayakumar asserted that the majority of the district secretaries wanted single leadership.

The same day, he told reporters in Chennai, “The party would conclude who should lead the party.”

At a press conference, OPS said, “The statement of Jayakumar to the press is the result of the ruckus.”

Later, Jayakumar told reporters that it was usual for party leaders to express their views during a press meet.

OPS, however, said in a press conference on 17 June: “Single leadership is not needed now.”

Panneerselvam noted in the press conference that he accepted the dual-leadership model as there was a threat that the party could collapse without it.

Both leaders were also seen meeting with the district secretaries to garner their support.

Several former ministers, including KA Sengottaiyan, RB Udhayakumar, CV Shanmugam, Ponnaiyan, and Thambidurai, met them amidst the confusion.

Poster wars add fuel to fire

While the senior leaders continued their talks with EPS and OPS about the ongoing tussle, a war of posters has started.

Posters urging OPS to become the single leader of the party have emerged in Chennai and his constituency Theni.

However, in Salem and other parts of the state, posters supporting EPS have appeared.

In a recent development, many AIADMK district secretaries, including those from Tuticorin, conducted a meeting extending their support to EPS.

Former AIADMK MP KC Palaniswami told South First that both EPS and OPS are trying to steal the party for their gain.

He came down heavily on the duo for putting the AIADMK in such a situation, and said they had failed to run the party.

“It is wrong to change the bylaws in the party as it violates the rights of the party’s primary membership. It also disturbs the party’s internal set-up and questions the democracy of the party,” Palaniswami said.

He, however, concurred that single leadership is needed to save the party from further damage.

Asked whom he supports, Palaniswami said he doesn’t support either OPS or EPS, and that the cadres should elect the party’s leader.

Another senior leader of AIADMK told South First on condition of anonymity that EPS holds the majority support in the single leadership issue: 64 of the 75 district secretaries, to be precise.

“Edappadi was a good leader when he was a chief minister, and lost the 2021 Assembly election with a 3 percent difference. It is not easy for a leader like him to do that, as the party leaders constantly threatened him with joining hands with Sasikala,” said the leader.

“He managed to keep them from doing so and saved the party from splitting. Even though it was a dual leadership during the AIADMK regime, Edappadi took swift action in many cases in which OPS didn’t. OPS delayed signing in most incidents, which led the party to function slower,” he added.

As the tussle for leadership continues, the Madras High Court will on 22 June take up a petition filed by former Palaniswami and Ramkumar Adityan seeking a ban on amendments at the general council meeting.