On Wednesday, the ruling AIADMK brought an end to a stand-off between two of its leaders—Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam. Following weeks of discussions and an executive committee meeting between both sides that went on till 3 am on Wednesday, the party announced EPS as its CM candidate for the 2021 Assembly elections.
In a show of unity, OPS announced the chief minister’s selection while EPS announced the constitution of a steering committee as had been promised to the deputy CM when the factions merged in 2017. Now that the AIADMK has settled the leadership question, the preparations for the 2021 Assembly elections have begun. The party has already started its campaign by releasing videos and memes positioning the chief minister against DMK chief M K Stalin.
It’s now clear that EPS has attained complete control of a party that was once in disarray after the death of its head and iconic chief minister J Jayalalithaa at the end of 2016. EPS, who became chief minister as a relatively unknown figure in 2017, proved himself a canny survivor, staving off multiple crises and keeping the party and government afloat on a wafer-thin margin for the better part of his tenure.
He also cultivated a strong public image for himself on the lines of party founder M G Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa, while accommodating and winning over other powerful figures within the AIADMK.
As a result, he was expected to successfully deal with the intra-party leadership question that had emerged over the past few months. OPS, on the other hand, has seen a decline in support within the party and while demanding what had been promised to him in 2017 (steering committee), was decidedly on the back foot.
Anyway, letting the uncertainty linger would have only hurt the party that would be facing Assembly elections after a decade in power and a hungry DMK in a do-or-die race. It’s in this context that the willingness of EPS to accommodate a weakened OPS’s demands and bridge a compromise bodes well for his political future and that of his party.