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What are the chances of the AIADMK losing power in Tamil Nadu?

Merging of the AIADMK party worries chief minister E K Palanisamy. Photograph: (India.com)

Delhi, India Aug 22, 2017, 04.50 AM (IST) Sampath Kumar

The two factions of the ruling All India Anna Munnetra Kazhakam, the AIADMK party have merged on Monday but the Chief Minister Mr. Palaniswami’s worries are far from over. The AIADMK government and the party itself started facing uncertainty following the release on bail of the party’s Deputy General Secretary T.T.V. Dinakaran after 42 days in a Delhi prison. Dinakaran was arrested on charges of trying to bribe some unknown Election Commission officials to get the two leaves symbol for his faction of the party. 

Mr. Dinakaran is the nephew of V.K. Sasikala, a close associate of the late Chief Minister Ms. Jayalalitha. Sasikala took over as the general secretary of the party after Jayalalithas’s death. Her appointment itself is being disputed by the former three-time chief minister Mr.Panneerselvam and his supporters. When she was about to take over as the chief ministership, the Supreme Court delivered a judgment upholding the trial court’s verdict in a corruption case known as disproportionate assets case and she is now undergoing the 4-year imprisonment in a Bangalore jail. Before she moved to the jail, she got her loyalist Mr. E. Palaniswami elected as the chief minister to the great disappointment of Mr. O.Panneerselvam who was holding the post till then following the death of Jayalalitha. And the party split into two factions with Mr. Panneerselvam having the support of 10 MLAs.

Sasikala also hurriedly appointed her nephew Mr. T.T.V. Dinakaran as the deputy secretary of the party so that the party could be in the hold of the family and she could still reign supreme in the party through him. Mr. Dinakaran himself was in a hurry to become the chief minister and threw his hat into the ring and announced his candidature in the by election in R.K Nagar. But the polling was canceled by the Election Commission as there were allegations of huge money being paid to the voters by Dinakaran. 

The latest update is that 19 MLAs, supporting Mr Dinakaran, met the state governor today and expressed that they were withdrawing their support to the chief minister, which means the government faces the danger of falling as it loses the majority.
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Till the release of Mr. Dinakaran on bail, Chief Minister Palaniswami was sitting firmly on the saddle, and the leader of the other faction was unable to improve his support base among the members of the assembly. Mr. Palaniswami who owes his job to Sasikala seemed to be upset, that Sasikala’s family and Dinakaran would be calling the shots and he started to assert his authority slowly and tighten his grip over the party too. 

To make matters worse, Dinakaran, on receiving bail, has declared that he is very much back to the command as the party's deputy secretary and nobody could remove him. Evidently, he is unhappy with the Chief Minister Palaniswami asserting himself. Dinakaran has claimed the support of 20 MLAs though he never declared his intention to form another faction officially. Already, Mr. Palaniswami is confronted with MLAs who are demanding rewards and ministerial berths as promised for their support during the confidence motion. Several regional and caste factions in the party are also clamoring for posts. 

The BJP which is trying to find a foothold in the state appeared to keep all the factions happy as it needed the support of all of them in the presidential elections. Leaders of both the factions met the Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi several times individually and were advised to merge at the earliest. With the leader of the DMK, Mr. Karunanidhi completely inactive due to serious health conditions and age, the BJP wanted to utilise the vacuum created by the death of Jayalalitha.

If elections are to be held now, the DMK is in a vantage position. 
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Both the factions of the AIADMK are trying to keep the Center in good humor. They know their chances of coming back to power are slim. The opposition DMK is already in election mode, and had utilised the birthday celebrations of their leader. Karunanidhi, inviting all the political leaders except the AIADMK and the BJP. If elections are to be held now, the DMK is in a vantage position. 

Even while the charismatic Jayalalitha was there, the DMK won 89 seats. A record of sorts for an opposition in Tamil Nadu. It lost 80 seats with a narrow margin. Both factions of the AIADMK knew this and are in a 'unite or die' situation. And Dinakaran from Sasikala’s powerful clan is back in the scene. But the analysts say that Sasikala’s name will be a liability, if there is a mid-term poll and that is why both the factions want to get rid of her. But that may be difficult. They have to convene the general body of the party and oust her from the post of an interim general secretary. Already, Palaniswami’s supporters have passed a resolution to remove Dinakaran from the deputy secretary post. 

As of now, the latest update is that 19 MLAs, supporting Mr Dinakaran, met the state governor to day and expressed that they were withdrawing their support to the chief minister (at 10 AM), which means the government faces the danger of falling as it loses the majority.

The opposition DMK leader Mr M.K Stalin, who is planning to bring up a no confidence motion, may not form the government as he would prefer fresh elections with the political environment seems to favour his party in the polls.

Merger or no merger, the party founded by the charismatic M.G. Ramachandran is in a shambles and needs a powerful mass leader to rebuild.

Sampath Kumar

Sampath Kumar is former Head, Tamil Service, BBC

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