The beleaguered O Panneerselvam who initiated a ‘Dharma Yudham’ in 2017 to reclaim his position in the party appears to be heading towards the same path, this time ‘war for Dharma, 2.0,’ after his expulsion from the AIADMK on Monday.
Panneerselvam, following his dismissal from the party and when authorities descended on the AIADMK headquarters to lock and seal the premises in view of the violence, told reporters he would meet party workers, take legal action and approach court.
Precisely, this was what Panneerselvam, popularly known as OPS had done years ago against VK Sasikala that culminated in the coming together of the factions led by him and Edappady K Palaniswami (EPS).
In the present ’round two,’ political observers say one cannot be sure about the outcome of such moves. Also, the BJP, which is aggressive now in Tamil Nadu is yet to take a firm stand on taking sides in the AIADMK’s bickering.
After being the Chief Minister thrice, Panneerselvam agreed to be the deputy CM in 2017. Following DMK’s win in Assembly election last year, he also accepted the offer of Deputy Leader in the Assembly, while EPS became the Leader of Opposition. All along, the supremacy of Palaniswami in the party was unmistakable. With his expulsion, OPS is also set to lose his Deputy Leader position in the House.
He has already approached the Election Commission and in his June 27 memorandum to the panel, had underscored a bid to ‘sabotage’ the party administration by raking up the demand for a single leadership favouring EPS, neglecting him and thereby violating party bylaws.
Panneerselvam had just stopped short of requesting the EC to intervene to help establish his rights as per AIADMK bylaws and had said his representation was for the panel’s ‘kind consideration’, as required under the Representation of People Act, 1951.
Asked on what could be the future course of OPS’s action, political analyst Sumanth Raman told PTI that currently Panneerselvam has very ‘limited options’ to make a comeback in the AIADMK.
Political commentator M Bharat Kumar said Panneerselvam may consider taking steps like blocking party’s Two Leaves symbol and pursue other legal measures to scuttle Palaniswami from further firming up his grip on the party apparatus.
“Panneerselvam may join the BJP if the saffron party agrees or consider joining hands with Sasikala if her camp is okay with it. He may also toy with the idea of floating a new party. However, his chances to return to the AIADMK and especially to his previous top position is very slim,” he told PTI.
It is an open secret that Panneerselvam does not enjoy the support of party MLAs and office-bearers.
“OPS claims he has the support of party workers. However, that is limited to select regions,” he said.
After he was sidelined by Palaniswami camp, Panneerselvam has all along been playing the ‘victim card,’ claiming that his ‘sacrifices’ for the party has been forgotten. However, ‘barging’ into the party headquarters, staging a dharna and breaking open the doors of party office has created a sense of negativity against him and his supporters among the people and party workers, Kumar said.
If OPS had quietly staged a protest outside the party office, which was locked by Palaniswami’s supporters, it could have earned the sympathy of people and party workers for Panneerselvam, he added.
While the General Council meet was in progress elsewhere OPS’s storm troopers entered the office, apparently breaking open the doors and forcing their way into the headquarters.
Later, Panneerselvam arrived and waved to party workers from the upper floor of the headquarters. OPS’s supporters say that waving to cadres from the very same spot used by ‘Amma’ was not only similar to J Jayalalithaa’s style but it is OPS’ way to assert he was the choice successor of the late party matriarch and his way of asserting his right in the party.
AIADMK had on Monday elected Palaniswami as its Interim General Secretary and vested in him full powers to helm the organisation and expelled Panneerselvam and 3 of his loyalists from the party.