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Can OPS survive the Sting?

Can OPS survive the Sting?

Kavitha Muralidharan, Jun 16, 2017

O Paneerselvam is a man of choices. He chose to remain low-key, humble and loyal till J Jayalalithaa was around. He was rewarded with Chief Minister’s chair on two occasions when Jayalalithaa had to vacate her office. But on first week of February in 2017, three months after Jayalalithaa`s death, Paneerselvam was a man of another set of choices. He chose to rebel – something that was never seen as the trait of a man who rose to become the Chief Minister from being a tea shop owner. After a 40 minute meditation at Jayalalithaa’s memorial, Paneerselvam launched a tirade against Sasikala. The attack couldn’t have been better timed. There was a palpable anger against Sasikala and her family across the State in the aftermath of Jayalalithaa’s death. O Paneerselvam became an instant, immediate hero. He could rebel against perhaps the most powerful, influential family in the State.

It never mattered that Paneerselvam chose to humor Sasikala and her family till she decided to step into his Chief Minister shoes. For many, it was evident that Paneerselvam is ‘guided’ by a bigger hand that could possibly be the BJP. Ruling at the Centre with an emphatic electoral mandate, BJP is looking to establish its roots in several other states including Tamil Nadu. Observers feel the party was using a weakened AIADMK to do so in the State. After raids at the office and residence of Health Minister, Vijaya Bhaskar, the ruling party toed the BJP’s line and decided to keep Sasikala and her family out of the ‘party’s affairs.’ By this time, Sasikala was in prison in the Disproportionate Assets case and her nephew TTV Dinakaan was made the party’s deputy general secretary.

Just when things begin to look rosy for O Paneerselvam with the faction upping its ante over the possibility of merger, the sting tapes by an English news channel might derail the faction’s newfound image of honesty and intellect.

The sting tapes which has MLA Saravanan- who had escaped from Koovathur to join the OPS faction – admit to the fact that the OPS team too were willing to part with huge sum of money (around one crore) to earn the support of MLAs. Though Saravanan has consistently been denying any link with the tapes, the damage now looks done.

The tapes along with the fact that the BJP might choose to desert OPS in favor of Edappadi Palanisamy’s faction might reduce the political relevance of the faction. Observers say BJP could end up being ruthless in opting for EPS over OPS but ‘that is how it is bound to work.’ “When they look to establishing their roots in the State, they would prefer a faction that has power. Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu’s action of visiting the secretariat and examining files is unprecedented. Jayalalithaa wouldn’t have allowed something like this. This government is willing to do anything for the Central government and its support” says a senior leader in the party who still supports Dinakaran.

But the leader is also aware that the BJP is determined to put an end to Sasikala and her clan before she becomes as ‘big as Jayalalithaa’. “That is almost done. To keep away Dinakaran, all they need to do is to bring around the EPS faction. That is not difficult task either” he says.

With every possible being closed for the O Paneerselvam’s faction – the leader might be left with very few choices. Humoring the BJP to accept his faction and give it more credence is perhaps the only option available for the OPS camp now. Whether that will do them any good remains a million dollar question. Any attempts to woo the MLAs will again prove detrimental in the backdrop of sting tapes.

Five months after his big, much talked about rebellion, O Paneerselvam looks a short lived wonder.

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