CHENNAI: Amid the current crisis in the AIADMK, it’s the core group of senior party leaders, referred in political circles as Naalvar Ani, that is now the anchor holding general secretary Sasikala’s camp together. It comprises Edappadi K Palanisamy, P Thangamani, S P Velumani and Dindigul C Sreenivasan, along with senior leader K A Sengottaiyan.
Alongside other AIADMK heavyweights, this core group is expected to play a major role in the coming days as they have been entrusted with the duty of keeping the flock together till Edappadi K Palanisamy is able to prove his majority if Governor in-charge Ch Vidyasagar Rao calls for a floor test.
AIADMK’s old hand Sengottaiyan came to the limelight after former praesidium chairman
E Madhusudanan defected.
Once sidelined by late chief minister J Jayalalithaa, Sengottaiyan was in the wilderness for long before Sasikala accommodated him, considering his seniority and organisational experience.
Among the Naalvar Ani, Dindigul C Sreenivasan was not in active politics before the May 2016 Assembly elections. Party boss J Jayalalithaa revived his political fortunes by offering him a ticket. He won and was subsequently made the forest minister.
Sreenivasan, who is said to have functioned as number three in Jayalalithaa’s cabinet, only next to O Pannerselvam, was considered number two in the post-Jaya phase. Though Sengottaiyan along with other powerful leaders maintained a stronghold in the western region, it is believed that Palanisamy, Thangamani and Velumani managed to suppress him take over control.
While there has always been an ego clash and fight for supremacy among the top leaders of the western region, the trio ensured that Sengottaiyan did not come back to the mainline.
The core group that backed Sasikala in the recent battle for the post of the chief minister is predominantly from the from the western region. Except for Sreenivasan who is a Thevar, the others are Gounders.
It is learned that to strike a balance and retain their strength in southern districts, the team was likely to promote Thanga Tamilselvan from Theni who had vacated his MLA seat to enable Jayalalithaa contest from Andipatti in 2001.
Despite uncertainties over MLAs switching sides, this group has been able to hold legislators in the Sasikala faction together by convincing them that switching sides would mean the loss of majority, and eventually power. Will the current equation hold if Sasikala goes to jail? Only time can tell.