It was yet another day of festivity for the ruling AIADMK party members as their leader Jayalalithaa’s portrait was unveiled inside the assembly on Monday. For those who watched the celebrations and the ensuing selfie craze by the AIADMK ministers and seniors inside the assembly hall with the seven-foot high portrait of their leader in the background, it was a commemoration minus all the celebrations. AIADMK, the only party with highest vote bank in the state and the third largest in the parliament, is at crossroads.
Forty-five is a nice age—not too young to begin from scratch, not too old to sit down, relax and retire. The AIADMK, minus its erstwhile leader Jayalalithaa, failed to drive home this point as its ministers and senior leaders celebrated the unveiling of her portrait inside the assembly. “Peace, prosperity and progress” engraved beneath her portrait, was her vision, not just for the state of Tamil Nadu, but for her 40-year-old party as well.
She was a leader, who emerged from the shadows of her mentor M.G. Ramachandran and fought hard to establish herself, not just as a beneficiary of his legacy but as a legend. From being Jayalalithaa to Puratchi Thalaivi (revolutionary leader), she transformed into Amma over the years, only to lead the party, which had over the past four decades evolved and revolved around MGR.
While Jayalalithaa’s return to power for the second consecutive time in 2016 was akin to her mentor MGR’s victory in 1984, it subsequently catapulted the party from being just a regional party to the third largest in the parliament. Her party has now gone through an upheaval with all the internal churning.
A year after her death, the party has entered an era of uncertainty. In the past 45-days, post the dawn of 2018, at least 2000 members have been removed from the basic membership of the party, in several batches from various districts. It all began during the tail end of 2017, when the unified AIADMK, under Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palanisamy and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, in jointly signed statements, started cracking the whip.
On December 25, four of TTV Dhinakaran’s aides as district secretaries were expelled from the basic membership of the party. The axe then fell on 44 of Dhinakaran supporters on December 28. Then began the sacking spree, where at least 2000 people have been relieved from the basic membership of the party for anti-party activities.
On February 2, the party’s high level committee, comprising of both the chief minister, deputy chief minister and a few other seniors in the party met to discuss on filling these vacancies in every district and also to freeze the members for the new steering committee that would take the party forward. Unfortunately, the meeting failed to arrive at a consensus on the 11 member steering committee, while the sacking spree continued.
While expulsions take place on one side, a swift move to increase the party’s membership also continues. The party under EPS and OPS, kicked off a new membership drive amid the purge of Dhinakaran loyalists. Party sources say at least two lakh applications have been distributed till date. The sacking spree and the new membership drive might add strength to the EPS-OPS dual leadership. But for the existing leaders of the AIADMK, who were once kept in a state of perpetual fear of loss, just a portrait of their eternal leader with her vision written below, might not steer them forward. For the AIADMK proving its own strength is not in just unveiling a portrait of her, but being untiringly ambitious like her.