Suddenly Oct 7 has become an important date in Tamil Nadu’s political calendar after it was announced that the feuding AIADMK leaders – Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Deputy CM O. Panneerselvam - would jointly announce the Chief Ministerial candidate of the party on that date.
While hectic parleys are on to arrive at a compromise formula that could lead to the announcement of a steering committee – a key demand of OPS – the question of CM candidate could take a little while according to insiders. “So even if the two leaders appear together before TV cameras on Wednesday and announce that a decision on the CM candidate would be decided by the to-be-formed steering committee, it would send a signal of unity,” said a senior Minister involved in the negotiations between the CM and his deputy.
Supporters of EPS are hoping that both the decisions – steering committee and CM candidate – would be announced together so that there is little room for manipulation later. “Any further delay on the CM candidate would only give an impression of indecisiveness especially when the DMK has already announced Stalin as its CM candidate and has been taunting us who our man is,” said an MLA from a western district. Ultimately a quid pro quo – steering committee for CM candidate – needs to be agreed upon by EPS and OPS before they face the TV cameras on Wednesday.
True OPS had nursed ambitions of being projected as a CM candidate but having witnessed EPS consolidate himself in that post over the last three years he has resigned himself to playing second fiddle. Though the two leaders are jointly responsible for running the party, OPS has been demanding a 11 member steering committee since Aug 2017 to increase his bargaining power since EPS has used the power of his office to ram through a few decisions in the party. EPS had also deferred a decision in forming this committee apprehending that senior ministers, who are with him now once left out of this committee, may rebel against him.
He has also opposed naming anyone else as CM candidate as that would become a campaign issue in the hands of the DMK which would claim that even the AIADMK has admitted that EPS has been a failure and hence he has been changed. So if EPS has to be accepted as the CM candidate by OPS, he has to give him the steering committee, which essentially would be akin to the politburo in the communist parties. Even if the committee tilts towards OPS now it is always possible for some of its members to shift to EPS’ side as many pro-OPS MLAs did during the last three years.
Ultimately what both EPS and OPS have to realise is that the two are not charismatic leaders like MGR or Jayalalithaa but are only creatures of the party. “Without the full backing of the party they would be reduced to small regional chieftains attracting only their community votes in a few districts. Unless they convert the coming election into a battle between the AIADMK and DMK it would be difficult to overcome ten years of incumbency and the lack of a strong leader at the helm. True they need a CM face but in turn he needs a united AIADMK behind him and for that OPS has to play along,” explained political commentator Raveenthran Thuraisamy.