POLITICS

Despite The Happy AIADMK Merger, The Political Uncertainty In Tamil Nadu Is Far From Over

Will EPS and OPS sail through? 

22/08/2017 2:46 PM IST | Updated 22/08/2017 2:58 PM IST
PTI

In Tamil Nadu, all is still not well because things haven't ended well.

After six months of bizarre political estrangement marked by repetitive blow-hot, blow-cold drama that the country had rarely seen before, two factions of the ruling AIADMK, which split following the takeover of the party by VK Sasikala, merged happily on Monday.

Edappadi K Palaniswamy will continue to be the chief minister with O Panneerselvam, the man of the masses who walked away protesting Sasikala's hegemony, by his side.

On the surface, the party now has both the numbers in the assembly and the resources (EPS), and the mass-base (OPS). More importantly, it also has the support of the BJP at the centre.

Ideally, the happy-ending on Monday should have settled the six-month long uncertainty within the government and the AIADMK; but unsurprisingly, it has triggered another round of uncertainty because it struck Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dinakaran out of the equation. They are not simple supplicants who could be shooed away, but the general secretary and the deputy general secretary of the party. EPS and OPS may not need them any more. but they need the party because that's their passport to survival.

On Tuesday morning, within hours of Edappadi and OPS officially joining hands, 19 MLAs pledging allegiance to Dinakaran met the governor C Vidyasagar Rao, who swore in OPS as the new finance minister on Monday, and told him that they didn't have confidence in EPS. Their numbers are perfect because without them, the government will fall. If they press for it, the governor will have to call for a floor-test, which under the present circumstances will end the EPS-OPS rule.

There are three possible scenarios, all of which don't favour the reunited AIADMK, but suits a crafty BJP in the short term.

It's not that EPS and OPS wouldn't have factored in this possible pushback by Dinakaran because he had the support of 37 MLAs when they were negotiating peace. Either they just wanted to push ahead and wait for the consequences, or thought that the dissident MLAs would fall in line by the lure of power. Dinakaran certainly lost half of his MLAs with the turn of events, but still has retained enough numbers to cause trouble. If the OPS-EPS AIADMK don't find ways to include Dinakaran and Sasikala in the new dispensation, the government will certainly fall.

For Dinakaran and Sasikala, it's a fight for their survival, and protection of the authority and wealth of their clan that they systematically acquired under J Jayalalithaa's patronage for three decades. Sasikala was not just a homemaker or aide at Poes Garden, but the person who indeed handled the affairs of the AIADMK, most of the time calling the shots. Naturally, her authority was unchallenged when Jaya died, and her takeover of the party was easy.

EPS, the ministers, and even most of the MLAs were her cronies and being purged by them just to close ranks with OPS will not be palatable to her. She didn't build this empire for nothing. In fact, it's to her credit that Dinakaran has been successful in fielding 19 MLAs virtually threatening to pull down the government.

Right from the beginning, it was clear that OPS was backed by the BJP at the Centre because otherwise he wouldn't have the gall to fight a long-haul battle with the support just about ten MLAs and practically no party infrastructure. He indeed had massive support from the people and the media, but the other side had the government, the numbers, the party and bottomless resources.

Even after the initial rounds failed and the public interest waned, OPS kept his head above water because the centre backed him up with its age-old strategy of using government agencies to pursue the moneybags of the EPS camp. In fact, that was the move that broke the back of EPS. On his own, EPS and his camp wouldn't have betrayed Sasikala and Dinakaran, but when the all- powerful centre is on hot pursuit and there are chinks in his armour, there's very little chance of survival.

The crucial question now is how will the uncertainty pan out?

Will EPS and OPS sail through?

There are three possible scenarios, all of which don't favour the reunited AIADMK, but suits a crafty BJP in the short term.

If Dinakaran's blackmail doesn't work and his MLAs ask for non-confidence on the floor of the house, the government doesn't have a chance to survive. It will fall.

1. Dinakaran's Blackmail

Dinakaran's MLAs raising the flag of revolt means two things - one; they want to negotiate for the return of some space for Dinakaran and Sasikala; or two: they want to split the party so that Dinakaran and Sasikala can still conserve their lifeline called political authority.

On Tuesday, there were some noises from the EPS-OPS group that all's still not lost for Sasikala. Sasikala has already filed for a review of her conviction in the disproportionate assets case by the Supreme Court (that comes up for hearing today and could be easily dismissed) and her efforts are clearly in cleansing her image. It's a tall order, but Dinakaran is a seasoned strategist who can marshall his resources and the clan's caste advantage to run an average sized party that indeed can make some dent in some pockets in the state. Being a political leader lends oneself a lot of protection. Dinakaran and Sasikala need it more than anybody else in Tamil Nadu.

2. The Government Falls

If Dinakaran's blackmail doesn't work and his MLAs ask for non-confidence on the floor of the house, the government doesn't have a chance to survive. It will fall. In such a scenario, the apparent beneficiary will be the DMK, which has to either wean away some AIADMK MLAs or ask Dinakaran for support. Opting for the latter is highly unlikely given the public stigma he carries. So, DMK has to let it go and it will be either fresh polls or President's rule.

The twist in BJP's plot could be the surprise entry of Rajinikanth. BJP might be hoping for a Rajini-Jaya propulsion.

3. A Long Spell Of President's Rule

The centre would love the possibility of President's rule. It will be happy to run the state by proxy and be generous with money and Central schemes to raise BJP's stake in the state before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In the 2016 assembly elections, the BJP's vote share was pathetic -- less than 3%, and any chance to impress the people will be a blessing in disguise. It remains to be seen if the centre would want to persist with the President's rule till the 2019 elections although it can cite precedents (e.g. Pondicherry and Nagaland in the 1970s). Six months to one year is highly likely given the the BJP's majority in the Parliament.

In the elections that follow the President's rule, it will be advantage DMK. Even as a united front, the AIADMK is considerably discredited and the state been in a socio-economic limbo. Centre will certainly do some window-dressing (the prime minister's tweet endorsing the AIADMK merger clearly refers to development and progress), but will that be enough?

Past results have shown that the state's electorate is highly perceptive and brutal with its decisions. Among all the southern states, the BJP's presence is the most feeble in Tamil Nadu. After all these machinations, in the end, it might end up achieving nothing.

The twist in BJP's plot could be the surprise entry of Rajinikanth. BJP might be hoping for a Rajini-Jaya propulsion, but it remains to be seen if it can alter the basic character of Dravidian politics in the state.

More On This Topic

SPONSORED BY &PRIVÉ HD