In the end, the merger between the two dominant factions in the ruling AIADMK went along predicted lines. The three-time chief minister O Panneerselvam took the oath of office and secrecy as the deputy of Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Monday. In a reciprocal gesture, Panneerselvam got to head a newly-formed steering committee that will run the party with Palaniswami as his deputy.
A dove in the OPS group, ‘Ma Foi’ K Pandiarajan got a cabinet berth, but not the prestigious school education portfolio, while rebel hawk K P Munusamy got accommodated in the party steering panel. The ruling faction made a few sacrifices to create openings for the OPS group and the rebels had to climb down to get the deal done. Tough negotiations to make it happen showed politics is the art
of the possible.
Egos were nicely massaged, but it was Chief Minister Palaniswami who emerged the big winner. He added to the count of legislators on his side and in OPS, he has a man of stature who is perceived to have the support of the cadre. He can expect good synergy since OPS has always been a team player except for that one streak of ambition he showed in February. Contrast that with jailed party general V K Sasikala’s nephew T T V Dhinakaran, who was always in a hurry to become the chief minister and made a mess of it, and you will find Palaniswami chose his friends wisely.
The unified party is expected to immediately go to the Election Commission to get back its Two Leaves symbol, which was frozen ahead of the R K Nagar Assembly by-elections. They also can be expected to manage the Sasikala factor in a calibrated manner. But more importantly, they need to get back to the business of running the government effectively. The party has a small window to get its house in order and create visible enthusiasm among the cadre. Good performance alone will make it reasonably well prepared for the forthcoming local body polls.