Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisamy is getting ready to face twin challenges posed by his party rival T T V Dinakaran and Leader of the Opposition and DMK working president M K Stalin.
Reacting to his ouster as deputy general secretary by AIADMK Amma under de facto control of Edappadi Palanisamy, Dinakaran told reporters in Thanjavur that he was appointed deputy general secretary by general secretary V K Sasikala and no one can remove him. He also said he would strike when the time was ripe.
Out to exploit the fluid situation to his advantage, Stalin told reporters here that he would bring a no-confidence motion again this government as governance was at a standstill because of the three-way split in the AIDMK into Amma, Pannerselvam and Dinakaran factions.
Edappadi Palanisamy who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi told reporters that he would again prove his majority if Stalin brought forward a no-confidence motion in the Assembly.
Edapaddi Government won a trust vote on Feb 20 last with the support of 122 MLAs, all supporters of self-proclaimed general secretary of the AIADMK Amma faction V K Sasikala. At that time the rival O Pannersalvam faction stayed neutral while the DMK walked out after the Speaker rejected its demand for a secret ballot as MLAs, brought from a resort, were under duress. The DMK’s ally Congress also walked out.
Under Assembly rules, there has to be a gap of six months before another no-trust motion is to be brought against the Government.Which means Stalin can bring a no-confidence motion any time after Aug 20.
More pressing for Edappadi is the need to meet the challenge thrown by Dinakaran whom he has disowned.
The only way to meet the threat from Stalin and Dinakaran is merger . The two factions may merge before Dinakaran starts his State-wide tour on Aug 14.
The contours of the merger is expected to be made public once Edappadi and Pannerselvam return this weekend.
Two options are being considered. One is to induct the OPS faction into the Government post-merger and make Pannerselvam deputy Chief Minister and give suitable portfolios to other heavy weights in his camp like K Pandiarajan.
As Pannerselvam was Chief Minister twice before, some in his camp say he should not agree to work under Edappadi. In that case, he may be made de facto chief of the party by make him head of a seven-member steering committee to hold the fort till the time is ripe to call general council and elect a new set of office-bearers, including general council, a post which was held by late Chief Minister J Jayalalitha and which was usurped by Sasikala after her passing.
Once the two factions merge and elect a new set of office-bearers, all appointments will be superseded. Then the AIADMK Amma can withdraw an affidavit it had filed before the Election Commission endorsing Sasikala’s appointment by interim general council.
That affidavit was filed by Edappadi after Sasikala installed him as her proxy before going to jail to serve a three-year term awarded by the Supreme Court following her conviction in the assets case.
Since then, Edappadi and Pannerselvam have moved closer to Modi and distanced themselves from the Sasikala clan. Pannerselvam is ready to merge his faction with Edappadi now that Dinakaran’s appointment as deputy has been declared null void.
The next logical step is to free the party from the clutches of Sasikala. For that the two factions should come together and file a joint affidavit before the Election Commission Once that is done, the poll panel will allow the two parties to withdraw the case before it and free the frozen Two Leaves Symbol.
The question is whether merger by itself will bring stability to the Edappadi Government. It is a question of numbers. It has support of 122 MLAs in a House of 233, five more than the half-way mark. After merger, the Government will get the support of 11 MLAs belonging to the OPS camp.
That by itself will not save the government as at least 20 MLAs in the Edappadi camp are openly loyal to Dinakaran and they have accepted posts offered by him. They have accepted, but not assumed charge.
Obviously, it is a game of brinkmanship played by Dinakaran. He knows no MLA will like to rock the boat as Jayalalitha’s gift to the party is a mandate to rule till 2021. If the government is toppled, the MLAs cannot be sure of re-election.
Stalin stands to gain if he precipitates a mid-term as, if the two factions merge and align with BJP, possibly with the support of film star Rajini if and when he enters politics, he will face a formidable challenge.
In the ultimate analysis, Edappadi’s strength is his weakness, for no AIADMK MLA wants an election.