Despite OPS-EPS merger, AIADMK is caught in a game of snakes and ladders

There's no way out.

 |  4-minute read |   28-08-2017
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Contrary to the popular belief that different factions of the AIADMK are engaged in a game of political chess, it now transpires that they are actually playing Snakes and Ladders. The brainchild of three activists of the ruling AIADMK, C Prasad, P Sriganesh and P Gopal, this political version of the game shows its leaders as the ladders while the VK Sasikala group is depicted as the snakes. For instance, if the roll of the dice lands you at 22, the O Panneerselvam ladder will take you directly to 68 and safe thereafter.

The Edappadi Palaniswami ladder helps you jump from 19 to 55.

In contrast, Sasikala as snake slithers on the 65th square and if that is where you land, you will be gulped by the Mannargudi snake, down to zero. TTV Dhinakaran bites you at 49 and leaves you gasping for breath at 3, while Sasikala's husband, Natarajan will gobble up at 63 and drop you at 11.

The Snakes and Ladders game was showcased at the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai while the MLAs and MPs were engaged in devising ways to permanently oust the "snakes" from the party. Sycophancy is the name of the game in the AIADMK, quite literally.

The attrition rate in the AIADMK had gone up significantly in the past four days, with Dhinakaran sacking just about every minister in the government from his party post. This included removing EPS as Salem district secretary and depriving electricity minister P Thangamani of his power as Namakkal district secretary.

dk_082817083238.jpgThe Dhinakaran influence rankles.

But that is the least of the EPS-OPS camp's worries. They have already declared Dhinakaran's appointment as deputy general secretary null and void and therefore his pink slips are nothing to fret about. The ruling faction is more worried about how to wrest control of the two significant assets, party mouthpieces Jaya TV and Namadhu MGR, that are still controlled by the Sasikala family. Of late, Namadhu MGR has been critical of the BJP.

During the time the merger between the EPS and OPS factions was to take place, Jaya TV broadcast images of Palaniswami falling at Sasikala's feet after she chose him to be the chief minister. That embarrassed EPS and since Sunday, Jaya TV has been reportedly switched off by the government-owned Arasu cable, albeit unofficially, in some towns of Tamil Nadu. This is quite ironical, given how Jaya TV, bearing the late leader's name was the only one given access to all of Jayalalithaa's programmes. Now her own government blacking out the channel is a pointer to how the divisions in the AIADMK are threatening the different organs of the Jaya kingdom.

During the time when OPS was out of the AIADMK, his camp had factored floating "Amma TV" as a mouthpiece for what it espouses. In Tamil Nadu, just about every political party has its own TV channel — seen almost as a necessity to both indulge in propaganda and take potshots at others. With the Dhinakaran group making it clear that Jaya TV is a private property, the ruling faction will have to consider occupying the airwaves with its own rival offering. If that happens, it will be a bit like Karunanidhi starting Kalaignar TV to take on Sun TV after his fallout with the Maran brothers a decade ago.

It is quite apparent that the merger, which was expected to lead to a more smooth functioning of the party and the government, has only ended up creating a mess. At the meeting in Chennai, some 35 MLAs were absent — a clear pointer to the clout Dhinakaran still holds over the AIADMK. Even if Governor Vidyasagar Rao were to take only 19 rebel MLAs, who gave a memorandum expressing lack of confidence in EPS into account, the government is still in the minority. The question is, how long can Rao stave off pressure to ask EPS to prove his majority on the floor of the House?

Given that the AIADMK is now part of the NDA, the BJP will be in a catch-22 situation. Its leaders in Delhi had nudged the two camps to come together but the party had not factored in the Dhinakaran influence. With four more MLAs joining the rebel camp, Governor Rao cannot stay quiet for too long.

If the rebels, along with the DMK-led Opposition vote to bring down the AIADMK government, Snakes and Ladders will no longer be just a harmless game.

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TS Sudhir TS Sudhir @iamtssudhir

The writer is a journalist.

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