The story of AIADMK is a great chain of political betrayals
From MGR to Jayalalithaa, to Sasikala to OPS, it’s one unending saga of shifting loyalties.
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Once, a senior AIADMK leader from Dindigul told the party founder MG Ramachandran (MGR): “Anna, our own party men cheated me.” MGR apparently corrected him, saying: “Say you got cheated.” This line by MGR probably stands just as good in the present political scenario in the AIADMK. If betrayal is common in politics, the word has been reinvented in many forms in the Dravidian party.
MGR, for starters, was part of DMK and a favourite of its founder, Anna Durai. Karunanidhi, who had been part of DMK since much before MGR came in, felt that his actor friend climbed the ladder of popularity very quickly. Soon, after Anna’s death, the tussle between Karunanidhi and MGR led to the latter starting his own party - AIADMK.
He later introduced his co-actor, J Jayalalithaa, into the party and made her the propaganda secretary. But only to realise during his period in hospital in Brooklyn, that she was slowly gaining control of the party.
In 1985, MGR’s confidantes, including his wife Janaki, removed Jayalalithaa as the deputy leader of the parliamentary party. Some senior leaders in AIADMK recalled, “She and her confidante Thirunavukarasu were getting close to the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and even met him as MGR was in the hospital for treatment.”
Rest is history as AIADMK split into two, with Jayalalithaa and MGR’s wife, Janaki, fighting it out, with the former winning over the party. Since then, Jayalalithaa had been ruling the party with an iron hand.
It’s a known fact in the power corridors of Tamil Nadu that Jayalalithaa’s close friend Sasikala had a major role in hand-picking party functionaries. Some senior leaders like Thirunavukarasu, and others who travelled with Jayalalithaa from the beginning, were slowly getting sidelined by the Sasikala family, say sources in the AIADMK. Bader Sayeed, former AIADMK MLA and Jayalalithaa’s school friend said, “Sasikala didn’t want anyone close to Jayalalithaa. Amma gave me many posts and I did well.
Then Sasikala sidelined me. So when OPS came and said that’s how he also felt, I supported him. Whoever was close to her was stopped from meeting her. I was made to stand on the road. There were many obstacles put in my way. Then I left because I am not the person who would complain.”
Sasikala and her family relied on their own band of loyalists. O Panneerselvam started his career in the united DMK in 1963 and later joined AIADMK in 1973. He had a humble beginning running a tea shop in Theni and getting involved in party activities. OPS, as he is called, was spotted by TTV Dinakaran, when he contested from Periakulam constituency in 1999.
Then OPS became a loyalist of TTV Dinakaran. TTV introduced OPS to his aunt Sasikala and suggested he be given an MLA seat. Later in 2001, when Jayalalithaa had to go to prison over irregularities in the Tamil Nadu Small Industries Corporation (TANSI) land acquisition case, OPS was handpicked to become the CM.
Again, in 2014, OPS was made the CM when Jayalalithaa was sentenced in the disproportionate assets case. Pugazhendi, belonging to the TTV camp, said, “I was there when the disproportionate assets case verdict came in the court. Amma was so angry.
We gave her the paper asking her to appoint next CM. She just threw the paper in frustration. She said pick anyone. We then asked Chinamma (Sasikala) who thought for a minute and said, ‘Let OPS become CM again’. So imagine the betrayal.”
However, OPS camp leaders had been saying that OPS was handpicked by Jayalalithaa and she trusted him. As far as Edappadi Palanisamy is concerned, he had been a hardcore party worker who was always a favourite of Jayalalithaa. He was hardly controlled by Sashikala. “Amma liked him and gave many opportunities,” said an AIADMK leader.
But during the Koovathur incident, after OPS split, Sasikala had two options. One was EPS and the other, Sengottaiyyan. Finally, EPS was chosen, even though he ultimately changed loyalties to sideline the Sasikala family. The TTV faction has been spreading videos of EPS falling on the feet of Sasikala at Koovathur, after being named as the chief minister, just to show how his loyalties changed when he sidelined TTV and joined hands with OPS.
Now, once again, not many know which MLA will shift to which faction of AIADMK. So, as some say, politics is a game in which loyalty is difficult unless the leader has a mass appeal and absolute control. Wonder if there is any such “leader” in AIADMK right now.