The current bursts of energy from the various factions of the ruling AIADMK have a lot to do with the forthcoming local body elections that are less than three months away. Since the Madras High Court has set a May 14 deadline for the polls, frenetic activity is on to encash the sympathy votes in the name of the party’s iconic former head J Jayalalithaa whose death created a void.
Keenly aware of the challenges, new Chief Minister ‘Edappadi’ K Palaniswami quickly slipped behind the governance wheel after winning the trust vote and announced a slew of welfare measures that were part of the party’s poll promises. On day one, he made a statement of sorts by occupying the chamber from where Jayalalithaa functioned within the Secretariat. Besides, he made a personal gesture by ushering each minister into their chambers, which no other CM had done so far. While keeping the flock together, Palaniswami has to take on outgoing CM and rebel leader O Panneerselvam. Jaya’s niece Deepa Jayakumar, who has just floated her own forum, and her brother Deepak are the other pieces of the jigsaw he needs to crack.
In the Assembly, Palaniswami saw through DMK working president M K Stalin’s game plan of creating bedlam to get the House dissolved, by ensuring the 122 members on his side didn’t get provoked. Sharp strategy won him the day, and the DMK had egg on its face. Another opportunity awaits Palaniswami as his government prepares to present its budget next month. If he can capture the people’s mind with some out-of-the-box proposals, he can hopefully reduce intra-party friction and get the AIADMK machinery fully oiled for the civic elections. Having lost the Assembly gambit, Stalin did the Delhi Durbar circuit. That an ailing Congress chief Sonia Gandhi agreed to a rare photo op with him indicated her understanding of the party needing ally DMK’s generosity to do well in the local body polls.