EPS or OPS: Who will emerge ‘single leader’ of AIADMK in TN?

Chennai: What started as a solo voice in Madurai, when MLA V V Rajan Chellappa pitched for a single leader to steer the AIADMK, has found its echo in Perambalur and other parts of the State, with many functionaries of the ruling party joining the chorus and expressing their wish for ‘one supremo’.

Following this, the AIADMK headquarters called a meeting of its seniors, including ministers, district secretaries, MPs and MLAs 12 June, and, at the same time, issued a gag order restraining party members from airing their views in public.

“The meeting will be chaired by party coordinator and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and joint coordinator and Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and it will be held in party headquarters,” a statement said.

In the release, OPS and EPS, the twin heads of the party, said, “Whoever wishes to express their views for the welfare of AIADMK should utilise opportunities in party fora like the general and executive councils, besides consultative sessions.”

They cautioned party members that their utterances on intra-party affairs may become a handle for the Opposition to target the AIADMK and, hence, they must avoid it.

On Sunday, a day after Chellappa batted for a single head, R T Ramachandran, a senior AIADMK leader representing Kunnam Assembly segment as MLA, issued a video in which he said, “My appeal is for a unitary leadership and it should be strong and unselfish.”

Stating that party founder M G Ramachandran and his successor J Jayalalithaa were “selfless and treated only the party as their family”, he said both the leaders had “avoided” their respective families while nurturing and guarding the organisation.

“Whoever tries to threaten or divide the party for their family will be viewed as yet another Sasikala by the AIADMK workers,” he added.

According to political observers, while Chellappa’s statement was seen in favour of Panneerselvam, as the Madurai strongman had said “the one who won the confidence of Amma should lead the party”, Ramachandran’s comments were backing Palaniswami.

“Chellappa’s words clearly indicate that he was backing OPS, as Jayalalithaa had made him the Chief Minister whenever she had to step down. And, by saying that ‘attempts to bend the party for the sake of family caused distress to party functionaries like him’, Ramachandran was slamming Panneerselvam, in the wake of his recent reported attempts to secure a ministerial berth for his son Raveendranath Kumar in the Union Cabinet,” says S Vadivelan, a political analyst.

When News Today spoke to supporters of EPS and OPS, they came down heavily on each other. Those backing the Chief Minister pointed to Twitter hashtags of OPS’ men, promoting him for the AIADMK head post. “This is unwanted and is one of the major reasons for the present rift. Moreover, the AIADMK has been a party against family interests right from the day of its inception,” they said.

However, the Deputy CM’s supporters said, “Despite facing so many humiliations, OPS is maintaining silence all these days only for the sake of the party’s unity and the government’s stability. But there is a limit for everything.”

A senior leader of the AIADMK said, “It is common for a large party like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to witness difference of opinion. In fact, we are far better when compared to other parties. All issues will be amicably sorted out during the 12 June meet. We are sure OPS and EPS will stand united.”

M Bhaskar Sai