Worries over the possibility of the “Two Leaves’ symbol being frozen due to factionalism are making the AIADMK as well as its alliance partner BJP in Tamil Nadu jittery.
The concern is no longer limited to the Erode East bypoll but also the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2024, where the symbol is crucial for the NDA alliance.
The Supreme Court, on Friday, 3 February, directed that the AIADMK’s general council select one of the three names shortlisted by Edappadi K Palaniswami as the party’s candidates for Erode East Assembly bypoll.
The decision put Palaniswami on the back foot, and came as a glimmer of hope for O Panneerselvam.
It also came as a new headache for the BJP, which sprung into action.
BJP attempts to play pacifier
The Supreme Court’s direction came on the day BJP Tamil Nadu unit president K Annamalai along with the party’s National Secretary CT Ravi met Edappadi K Palaniswami at the latter’s residence in Chennai in the morning and proceeded to meet O Panneerselvam later in the day.
According to sources, both the BJP leaders told Palaniswami to “think beyond the byelection”.
The BJP delegation is said to have conveyed to Palaniswami that they did not want the AIADMK’s Two Leaves symbol to get frozen when the Lok Sabha elections were near.
Annamalai is also reported to have said that if the AIADMK was weakened by the tussle between EPS and OPS, it would affect the cadres.
“The BJP wants a strong alliance to take on the DMK allies in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections,” Annamalai is said to have told Palaniswami.
Sources from the meeting told South First that Palaniswami assured CT Ravi that 99.99 percent of cadres were with him, and that he could even win the byelection.
Palaniswami, however, is said to have firmly turned down the possibility of a merger with the O Panneerselvam faction of the AIADMK.
Later, the BJP leaders went to meet Panneerselvam and he reportedly told the BJP leaders that he was even ready to sign the requisite electoral document for the EPS candidate and have a unified candidate.
We discussed about the upcoming Erode assembly by-elections and other issues concerning the State. pic.twitter.com/zbE4WLpVHa
— C T Ravi 🇮🇳 ಸಿ ಟಿ ರವಿ (@CTRavi_BJP) February 3, 2023
Backlash for ‘United AIADMK’ push
After meeting both leaders of the AIADMK, the BJP leaders told reporters that they are pushing for a united AIADMK to take on the DMK.
“We have urged both of them to work together in the interest of Tamil Nadu and to defeat the DMK alliance in this byeleciton,” CT Ravi said in a statement.
— K.Annamalai (@annamalai_k) February 3, 2023
A section of cadres of the AIADMK, however, didn’t take kindly to the “patronising” tone of the BJP with regard to fissures in the party.
KP Munusamy, the deputy general secretary of AIADMK fumed against the BJP leaders for their “unsolicited advice” on a united AIADMK.
The party’s IT wing secretary Singai G Ramachandran too took to Twitter to lash out at the BJP in general and CT Ravi in particular, reminding them of their “limits”.
Who the hell is @CTRavi_BJP to tell us what we should do in our party? Just because you are from a National party does it mean you can dictate anything? Will @CTRavi_BJP be okay if we tell them how they should run BJP Karnataka? (1/2)
— Singai G Ramachandran (@RamaAIADMK) February 3, 2023
Responding to the AIADMK second-line leaders, Tamil Nadu BJP vice-president Narayanan said: “Let Palaniswami say these, and then we will react.”
On the other hand, when reporters asked his opinion on the decision of the Supreme Court, Panneerselvam replied: “Everything is for the good”.
OPS faction moves ahead with nomination
Meanwhile, Senthil Murugan, the candidate announced by Panneerselvam, filed his nomination on Friday for the Erode East constituency.
Meanwhile, the decision of allowing Panneerselvam and three others to also vote in the general council meeting is a hard hit to the Palaniswami faction because OPS was removed from the primary membership of the AIADMK last year — in a general council meeting, no less.
Soon after the order of the apex court was pronounced, both Palaniswami and Panneerselvam held discussions with their supporters.
According to sources from the Palaniswami faction, the hardships in convening a general council meeting in such a short span were pointed out, and it was decided to get letters from the general council members to say KS Thennarasu was their candidate.
They also stated that EPS was not interested in allowing OPS once again into the general council meeting.