Chennai: The rout of the AIADMK in the urban local body polls will raise major questions for the present leadership of the party led by two former Chief Ministers, O. Panneerselvam and Edappadi. K. Palaniswami.
The DMK returned to power after a gap of ten years in 2021 and in the ensuing rural local body polls for the nine new districts, the DMK front won handsomely giving the opposition AIADMK no chance at the hustings.
The heavy loss in the urban local body polls is a death blow for the present leadership of the party and rumblings are expected to start in the party in the coming days.
V.K. Sasikala, the estranged interim general secretary of the AIADMK, is waiting and watching the developments in the main opposition party and the possibility of the former aide of late J. Jayalalithaa making a bid to take over the party is not remote.
Sasikala was expelled from the AIADMK by the dual leadership of OPS and EPS. With the fighting spirit of her Thevar community she is likely to try and take over the reins of the party.
She has been working in the background ever since she came out from the Central prison in Bengaluru and has been in regular touch with party leaders and cadres across the state. She has set up a team to connect her to the party cadres and leaders and the powerful Thevar community to which she belongs is also supporting her.
AIADMK Chief Coordinator and former Chief Minister Pannerselvam also belongs to the Thevar community and backroom negotiations between Sasikala and OPS had taken place a couple of times at the instance of the Thevar community elders.
However, the Palaniswami faction of the party including D. Jayakumar,CVe Shanmugham, and a few other leaders, were opposed to her re-entry into the party. The total rout of the party in the urban polls including losing seats in the home constituencies of the two leaders will be a major factor and the leaders opposed to her entry cannot do much.
While Sasikala is not a natural leader like the late MGR or Jayalalithaa, she can emerge as a factor to unite the warring party factions and a common factor leading to the party’s resurgence among the cadres.
The next big challenge for the party will be the 2024 general elections. The BJP had announced before the urban polls that it was snapping ties with the Dravidian party only for the local polls and will continue the alliance in both the Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
Dr. R. Umamaheswari, political analyst and Professor of political science in a Chennai college, told IANS that the “AIADMK after the urban local body elections has diminished in strength and the presence of a leader who can command the respect of both the OPS and EPS factions is important for the resurgence of the party. While there may be stiff opposition from the EPS section to the entry of Sasikala but ultimately they will have to budge and relent. The possibility of Sasikala emerging as a power centre and taking control of the AIADMK is not very remote.”
Another factor is the performance of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), the political outfit of her nephew, TTV Dhinakaran. The party has got 102 seats across the state and has a good presence in South Tamil Nadu. On close analysis, the AMMK has has acted as a deterrent in the fortunes of the AIADMK in several seats of South Tamil Nadu and if Sasikala is back in the AIADMK, then naturally the support base of the AMMK will also come back to the AIADMK.
The OPS camp can easily state that the presence of the AMMK had led to a major debacle in the South and can push for the entry of Sasikala into the party fold. The opposition from the EPS camp will be feeble as the party was crushed in the strongholds of EPS in Western Tamil Nadu including Coimbatore, Erode and Salem.