Is it the beginning of the end to a grand old party of 45 years? Or is it a brief crisis the party is facing like in 1987-89, following the death of its founder MG Ramachandran, and before J Jayalalithaa (Amma) successfully took over for next three decades? If anyone has to win this AIADMK battle is VK Sasikala, not O Paneerselvam. Sasikala has the edge of carrying the image of Amma several times more than OPS. She may not be a film star, who people of Tamil Nadu love to see in the highest office, but she has the potential to dominate the party ranks like Jayalithaa did. Tamil MLAs would find it more difficult to accept OPS as an undisputed leader and bow before him as they did for Amma. For Sasikala, they might give it a thought.
The present turmoil in AIADMK reminded the 1987-89 crisis when MGR’s wife Janaki Ramachandran initially took over the party reigns, but finally lost it to Jayalithaa. The difference this time is there is no Jayalithaa to fight the battle of succession. Neither Sasikala nor OPS has that charisma to appeal to the public mind. Besides, unlike Jayalithaa, both don’t have the age on their side. History has it that only those, who held the reins at a relatively younger age, could make a mark and build an institution, movement. Notwithstanding the euphoria, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not have the age on his side. Rajiv Gandhi could have gone a long way in leading India, had it not been for his assassination in 1991.
The present political development in Tamil Nadu could be a signal of AIADMK’s downfall. It could also signal the birth of a third front in the state of 7.8 crore. The allegation of BJP gaining ground by instigating OPS is already there. DMK’s chance to fill the AIADMK stardom is very thin as for MK Stalin, his nonagenarian father M Karunanidhi’s shoes are still too big to fit him. AIADMK might survive this crisis by choosing between Sasikala and OPS, but it won’t be able to dominate the national scene any more. What Tamil Nadu thinks about national affairs may not be a matter for another few years or even decades.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 10, 2017)