'The AIADMK gets votes from all sections of the minorities.'
'By aligning with the BJP, the AIADMK stands to lose that vote'
Just when people were expecting another dharmayuddham from the deputy chief minister of Tamil Nadu, O Paneerselvam, once a steering committee was formed he announced that Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami would be the AIADMK's CM candidate for the assembly election which will be held next year.
Many people were surprised at this sudden turn of events as they expected OPS, a three-time former chief minister, to hold out a bit more, but not so Dr Sumanth Raman, a seasoned observer of Tamil Nadu politics, who had told A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com last week that both EPS and OPS would pull back from the brink.
While it is all quiet and peaceful in the AIADMK following Wednesday's show of unity by the chief minister and the deputy CM, there are questions as to how long this situation will last before trouble rears its head again.
"Though the BJP has a better rapport with OPS, the BJP has to be realistic," Dr Raman tells Ganesh in a fresh interview. "They know that EPS has a majority in the party."
So you were right when you told us that both EPS and OPS will pull back. Was it so obvious?
Till about a week ago it wasn't obvious. Then OPS put his foot down for the steering committee as both sides had agreed upon that, two years ago.
Once the committee was agreed upon, it was obvious that they had agreed to a deal.
Do you think EPS outwitted OPS?
EPS's biggest plus point has been running the government successfully. He managed to sideline T T V Dhinakaran. He managed the various cases that came up. The last year-and-a-half governance has been good. So it is inevitable that he has an advantage.
Even in the steering committee, 6 out of 11 are from the EPS group. Will this give him an advantage in party affairs?
The concern of the EPS group is that if they lose the elections, OPS would have complete control of the party.
No one side can claim complete victory now. It is a compromise. They are going united into the polls.
How will they decide on party posts if there is a tussle between the two groups?
That is why they have formed this committee, to finalise candidates.
Do you see the next round of tension when they choose candidates for the assembly election?
There will be tensions, but it will be worked out. It will eventually be solved.
Do you see OPS revolting at a later date? After all, he has not got much for backing EPS, has he?
At the end of the day he has benefitted. He is the deputy chief minister of the state. He is the coordinator of the party. His son is a MP and he is pushing to make him a minister in the central government.
The BJP seems to have stayed away from this round of patch-up, unlike earlier when they got OPS to go back to the AIADMK.
Look, the BJP doesn't want the AIADMK to weaken. It is there to counter-balance the DMK.
They don't want the AIADMK to implode.
OPS has a better rapport with the BJP than EPS. Why didn't it work this time?
Though the BJP has a better rapport with OPS, the BJP has to be realistic. They know that EPS has a majority in the party.
EPS also has a better perception among the public.
EPS is not so enamoured of the BJP clearly. Will the AIADMK continue its alliance with them for the assembly election, knowing that it could affect their minority votes?
Definitely, the AIADMK is not keen on carrying the BJP along. Jayalalithaa used to get a sizeable Muslim vote, especially from the Muslim women. The Christian vote is always with the DMK.
The AIADMK gets votes from all sections of the minorities. By aligning with the BJP the AIADMK stands to lose that vote.
Will the internal rumblings embolden AIADMK allies to seek more seats in the election?
Now that it has been sorted out, the party is united now.
Allies will ask for more seats, but their bargaining power will not increase as the party is united.
Will the differences at the top benefit the DMK electorally?
If there was a split it would have benefitted the DMK. As the party is united I don't see it benefitting them greatly.
Next year will be the first time there will be assembly elections in Tamil Nadu without both Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi. How do you think the elections will pan out without both these stalwarts?
People are getting used to that. There have been parliamentary elections, bye-elections and local body elections.
Now people will look at it as Edappadi versus Stalin.
Are EPS and M K Stalin up to the challenge, you think?
Well! They have to be, they are the ones in the fray.
They are not equal to Jayalalitha or Karunanidhi, but they will have to keep up to the expectations.
So are the Congress and BJP fated to continue ploughing a lonely furrow in Tamil Nadu? Do you see a turnaround for these national parties?
The problem for the national parties is that they don't have charismatic leaders here. If they had charismatic leaders here, they could have made an impact even earlier as Tamil Nadu votes for charismatic leaders.
What is it about Tamil Nadu politics that the Dravidian culture, philosophy is virtually impossible to shake?
I don't think it is about people voting for Dravidian ideology anymore. It is about people wanting a change but being unable to identify an alternate leadership that they can put their faith in.