May 14 was a day that opened a new chapter in Tamil Nadu politics. After a new stretch of the Chennai Metro rail was inaugurated, the people got to witness the changing political dynamics in the state. This was when the two ruling parties in the state and the Centre made it clear that they have began to enjoy a new relationship.
Union Minister for Urban Development Venkaiah Naidu and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami chose to sit down together in the state secretariat to review the progress of central schemes in the state. The most telling was what happened after the review meet. Naidu chose to speak to the media for 45 minutes while a subservient Palanisamy spoke only for five minutes. Naidu took every question from the press as if it was only to him and not to the chief minister.
On the face of it, the event was just a review meeting. But the context tells tales of the changing political equations within the horizontally split AIADMK and the merger which is hanging in the air.
And five days later, AIADMK’s rebel leader O. Panneerselvam, who had been touring the state to meet people, set out to the national capital. When he was about to board a flight from Chennai to Delhi, it was said he was travelling to Delhi to submit affidavits to the Election Commission of India as the two-leaves symbol case was nearing the final hearing. The rebel leader flew to Delhi with his team members K.P. Munusamy and Rajya Sabha MP V. Maitreyan.
But after the ECI meet, OPS and his team members were desperately waiting to hear from the Prime Minister’s Office for a meeting with PM Narendra Modi. Panneerselvam got the appointment as he requested.
Emerging out of the meeting with PM, OPS said he met Modi to talk with him about Cauvery issue, NEET exams and several other issues in the interest of Tamil Nadu. However, the meeting assumes significance against the backdrop of the Centre and the state government redefining their relationship at a time when the Presidential polls are due. Again, the much talked about merger talks too haven’t proceeded as OPS and EPS haven’t compromised on their tough stands. OPS was reportedly firm on his stand to come back as the chief minister and had sought a few lucrative portfolios for his men.
“OPS’s request to meet the PM had been pending for sometime now,” said a senior BJP leader in the state. According to sources, OPS had been desperate these days to come back to the limelight, particularly after Naidu’s meeting with EPS.
Even as OPS was desperately waiting in Delhi to know the status of his appointment with PM, Palanisamy was happily going around the Nilgiris with his team of ministers in the name of inaugurating the Ooty flower show.
“Panneerselvam has started losing the game. It is clear that Palanisamy had consolidated and Venkaiah Naidu’s meeting with him was an indication that he has got the Centre’s support,” said R. Rajalingam, a AIADMK district functionary. In fact, Palanisamy’s meeting with Naidu and the metro rail inaugural event, miffed the OPS camp, said MLAs and the MPs in the AIADMK (Amma) faction.
Panneerselvam, whose graph steadily rose in the Tamil Nadu in the last few months, seems to be playing a losing game.
In the event of his downslide, sources say, the agenda of OPS’s meeting was to curry favour with the BJP and ensure that he gets back his lost position. It is also said, OPS wanted either merger or at least support from the saffron party to be alive politically.