The intense power tussle between Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam came to a close on Wednesday when both of them came together to announce the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the 2021 assembly elections. The AIADMK also announced a 11-member steering committee.
“Tamil Nadu chief minister and party’s joint coordinator Edappadi K Palaniswami will be the chief minister candidate for the 2020-21 elections,” Panneerselvam declared. “Ministers SP Velumani, P Thangamani, Dindigul C Sreenivasan. C Ve Shanmugam, R Kamaraj, JCD Prabhakar, PH Manoj Pandian, R Mohan, R Gopalakrishnan and Manickam will be part of the 11-member steering committee,” Palaniswami announced.
The steering panel has been constituted by both OPS and EPS, three years after it was agreed. The idea of having a panel to guide the party was mooted in September 2017 when the EPS and OPS factions merged, “on instructions of the BJP at the Centre.” During the merger, more than 63 sections of at least 37 rules in the party’s constitution were amended to give powers of the general secretary to OPS and EPS as the coordinator and the joint coordinator. And now again, the constitution will have to be amended with the general council’s approval, to accommodate the steering committee.
For the first time, in the four-decade history of the AIADMK, the party has constituted a steering panel which will guide the party leaders in decision making. “The authority of the steering panel is yet to be framed. The panel will first have to be approved by the general council which is the highest authority in the party. Or the rules for the steering panel will have to be framed and then approved by the general body,” a senior leader from Ramanathapuram, seeking anonymity, told THE WEEK.
As per the AIADMK’s constitution, general council is the highest decision-making authority, followed by the executive committee and then the parliamentary board which usually guides the high command in taking decisions during the time of elections in selecting candidates. But it is yet to be known if the steering committee will do the job of the parliamentary board in the party during the ensuing elections. As of now, the role of the steering committee will be to guide the party high command in policy decisions of the party.
However, seniors like KA Sengottaiyan, M. Thambidurai, Anwar Rajha, Panrutti S. Ramachandran, C. Ponnaiyan, who were once part of the AIADMK founder leader MGR’s cabinet or seniors like V. Maitreyan who was the party’s points man in Delhi for over a decade, did not find place in the steering committee. Incidentally, there is no woman representative in the panel. Seniors like Gokula Indhiraand Valarmathi who were once handpicked by Jayalalithaa to be part of her cabinet or even former Rajya Sabha MP Vijila Sathayanand have not been included in the steering committee. “There are many more positions in the party and elections are nearing. There is no such debate on who should be part of the panel is needed now,” said R. Vaithilingam, one of the deputy coordinators of the AIADMK. Vaithilingam was one of the mediators in these 10 days to make EPS and OPS resolve the power tussle and ensure a temporary truce.
Seniors in the party, whom THE WEEK spoke to, expressed unhappiness over the newly-constituted steering committee not having any women or Muslim representation. “I have been in the party for more than 45 years, since its inception. How can a new comer who has been in the party for just five years guide people like me? This is pathetic. People like me are silent because we want the movement started by MGR and run by Jayalalithaa to be alive over the years,” said a senior leader after watching Wednesday’s announcement at the AIADMK headquarters.