DMK’s strategy: Keep calm and let AIADMK implode

The ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu is going through a crisis of sorts with the death of its iconic leader J Jayalalithaa on Monday. Some members are unhappy about the seemingly hasty manner in which O Panneerselvam was picked to be state chief minister, and there is still no clarity about who will assume the all-important role of party general secretary. But the main opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam seems to have decided to play the waiting game and not to fish in these troubled waters for the time being.

DMK party district secretaries said the instructions are clear. Until the high command in Chennai decides on a clear strategy, they are supposed to keep quite and refuse to entertain disgruntled AIADMK members who may want to jump ship before the local body elections expected to be held early next year.

DMK leaders fear that any move to poach AIADMK legislators could end up prompting the ruling party to close ranks. Worse, it could also push the ruling party towards the Bharatiya Janata Party for help to keep its flock together.

This despite the fact that the DMK and its allies have 98 of the 234 members in the Tamil Nadu Assembly and need only 19 more to topple the government.

Keep watch

Several DMK district secretaries to whom spoke said the AIADMK was bound to witness an upheaval in the coming months as it readies to implement a transition in its leadership.

Currently, Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala seems to be the frontrunner for the top post of general secretary. But it is the view of these DMK officials that her leadership will not be acceptable by many AIADMK cadres. Sasikala and her family are perceived by some party members to be corrupt and are battling charges of having assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. There is also some disconcertion at the manner in which members of Sasikala’s family seem to be jockeying for power since Jayalalithaa’s death.

“Let this happen on its own,”said a district secretary in the western region of Tamil Nadu. He added that the chaos would be most evident when civic polls take place next year.

“When Jayalalithaa was around, there was no way of questioning the selection of candidates,” this person said. “But AIADMK people will not listen to others the same way.” It was at this point that many will try to jump ship. “So we just need to wait patiently for the AIADMK to unravel on its own,” the official added.

A DMK official in Salem said intervening in AIADMK affairs and trying to poach leaders now would be counter-productive.

“The new leadership in the AIADMK will use any such move by us to rally its cadres,” he said. “This is the last thing we need.”

There was also the fear that the BJP might take advantage of the situation and may try to take advantage of the problems the AIADMK was facing to edge its way into the state.

On Wednesday, Dravidar Kazhagam leader K Veeramani, who is known to be close to DMK president M Karunanidhi, put out a statement warning the state ruling party against providing a chance to the BJP to enter through the back door.

Karunanidhi returned to his Gopalapuram residence on Wednesday after a week’s stay at the hospital. His health could also be a reason for the delay in the DMK high command expressing its views on the developments in the government and in the AIADMK.

OPS meets Sasikala

Meanwhile in Chennai, Chief Minister Panneerselvam and other senior ministers met Sasikala at Poes Garden for the third day in a row on Friday.

AIADMK officials said the chief minister, Sasikala and others went to Jayalalithaa’s memorial to pay their tributes after the meeting. “Rituals related to our leader’s death is also going on,” said a party Member of Parliament. “Don’t politicise these meetings.”

However, other developments on Friday made it clear that politics was not off the agenda at Poes Garden.

Given the media reports over the last two days that leaders in the AIADMK belonging to the Kongu Vellalar community have demanded important positions in the government and the party, former minister KA Sengottaiyan, a heavyweight who used to manage Jayalalithaa’s election campaigns, issued a statement dismissing claims that he was aiming for a postion.

He also reiterated his loyalty to the party and said he would remain in the AIADMK till the end.

An AIADMK MLA in Chennai said that since that the current government has more than four years of its tenure left, not many leaders would be willing to ditch the party.





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