Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami being
congratulated by AIADMK coordinator and Deputy
CM O. Panneerselvam after the former was announced as party’s Chief Ministerial candidate for the upcoming 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections at party office in Chennai on Wednesday. (PTI)
INCUMBENT Chief Minister K Palaniswami was on Wednesday named by the AIADMK as the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate for the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, ending a brewing crisis triggered by differences between him and his Deputy O Panneerselvam over the leadership issue. The two top leaders buried the hatchet and reached a workable understanding as AIADMK coordinator Panneerselvam himself announced the name of Palaniswami, while the latter declared constitution of a 11-member Steering Committee, acceding to a long pending demand of the former. During April-May next year, the Assembly elections are due in Tamil Nadu.
Ironing out differences in parleys over a week involving Ministers and party leaders, the twin announcements have removed intra-party roadblocks for the AIADMK in gearing up with gusto for the Assembly elections next year. Flanked by Palaniswami and other senior leaders at the party headquarters, Panneerselvam said: “I am happy to announce that our dear brother Palaniswami will be the victorious Chief Ministerial candidate of the AIADMK for the 2021 Assembly elections.”
Instantaneously, jubilant party cadres at the headquarters and across the State burst crackers and distributed sweets, plunging into celebrations while office-bearers who had gathered at the crowded hall in the office gave a thunderous applause welcoming the decision. Full of bonhomie, Panneerselvam, popularly known as ‘OPS’ said the decision has been taken unanimously in consultations led by party presidium chairman E Madusudanan. The move is significant as the issue would have cast a shadow over the AIADMK’s prospects in the polls next year had it not been resolved and it also has ended a nearly two month long speculation over the matter.
The Deputy Chief Minister said apart from him and Palaniswami, party deputy coordinators K P Munusamy, R Vaithilingam, senior leaders and members of the Steering Committee have unanimously resolved to nominate Palaniswami as the AIADMK’s Chief Ministerial candidate. The panel, which is expected to play a key role on important party matters comprises Ministers Dindigul C Sreenivasan, P Thangamani, S P Velumani, D Jayakumar, C Ve Shanmugam and R Kamaraj. Also, party organising secretaries, J C D Prabhakar, P H Manoj Panidan and P Mohan, former MP, R Gopalakrishnan and MLA (Sholavandan constituency) K Manickam are the other members of the committee. The setting up of the panel is as per an earlier AIADMK general council resolution, Palaniswami said.
The six Ministers and five other office-bearers are seen as loyalists of Palaniswami and Panneerselvam respectively. Later, Palaniswami and Panneerselvam, alongwith Ministers and party leaders paid floral tributes at the memorials of late AIADMK icons M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa at the Marina beachfront. It is a practice among Dravidian parties to pay homage at the memorials of leaders while taking important decisions. Later, Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar told reporters that rivals and betrayers had a wishful thinking of problems erupting in the party over the leadership issue so that they could derive political mileage and it has not happened. He said the choice of the CM nominee and constitution of the panel were based on consultations and consensus.
The churning in AIADMK over the CM candidate began on August 10 with Minister for Cooperation, Sellur K Raju saying that elected MLAs would choose the Chief Minister following the Assembly elections next year if his party was voted to power again. AIADMK leader and Minister K T Rajenthra Bhalaji contradicted his colleague and pitched for projecting Palaniswami as the Chief Ministerial candidate to emerge victorious in the next year polls. One leader after the other began airing their views and party deputy coordinator, Munusamy, seen as a confidant of Panneerselvam said the AIADMK top leadership would decide the CM choice. A poster war later erupted with a section of partymen projecting Palaniswami for the top post and others rooted for Panneerselvam.
The September 28 AIADMK Executive Committee Meeting saw a verbal duel between Palaniswami and Panneerselvam over who should be the Chief Ministerial candidate and on setting up of the panel. On that day, the party said its CM choice for 2021 polls would be declared on October 7 and from that day, consultations began. Amid discussions, though Forest Minister Sreenivasan told media that Palaniswami would be the CM nominee, others said such public utterances should be avoided. While Palaniswami became the Chief Minister months after the demise of party supremo Jayalalithaa, the factions led by him and Panneerselvam merged in August 2017 easing out V K Sasikala (Jayalalithaa aide) and her kin from the party.