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'OPS never said he wanted to become CM'

By A GANESH NADAR
Last updated on: October 07, 2020 22:01 IST
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'OPS did not back off.'
'He wanted transparency and he got it.'

IMAGE: AIADMK Coordinator O Panneerselvam, centre, and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, right, during the announcement of the pars chief ministerial candidate for the 2021 Tamil Nadu assembly election in Chennai, October 7, 2020. Photograph: R Senthil Kumar/PTI Photo
 

The rumblings in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Tamil Nadu's ruling party -- with Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS) challenging Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami's (EPS) right to be the party's CM candidate for the 2021 assembly election -- turned out to be the proverbial storm in a tea cup on Wednesday morning.

It was OPS who proposed the name of Chief Minister Palaniswami as the AIADMK's chief ministerial candidate at the party headquarters in Chennai.

A steering committee of 11 members was also announced, of who six were identified as EPS camp followers and five as OPS supporters.

While naysayers had predicted a split in the party, not many were prepared for such a tame ending to the drama that has been playing out for the last few months.

AIADMK Spokesperson Satyan Rajan aka Kovai Satyan speaks to A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com about how the party achieved an internal truce, and how it will fight next year's election.

You must be happy with the announcement of EPS as the CM candidate, it ends the tension over your leadership for 2021. It was a good move to have OPS make the CM announcement, but how did that happen?

The party coordinator O Paneerselvam has always spoken for the welfare of the party and the welfare of the cadre. He wanted to have a steering committee to guide the party. Once that was formed he announced the CM candidate.

But even in the steering committee that has been announced, six of 11 members will be from the EPS group so he has control over the steering committee, too.

You have to understand that we haven't decided what powers the steering committee will have. You cannot make inferences about that.

People were expecting OPS to be made the general secretary of the party, that also has not happened.

That is a very generic statement. It is an agenda planted by the Opposition. Our party is led by a coordinator and a joint coordinator.

OPS said that before choosing a CM candidate we need a steering committee to provide expertise to the party and the government. No topic of a general secretary came up.

Tell us about the behind the doors deliberations that led to OPS backing off. How was this accomplished? And what exactly has OPS got for backing EPS?

OPS did not back off. He is a leader of the party. He is open to discussion. He wanted transparency and he got it. He never said he wanted to be chief minister. He said party affairs must be conducted democratically and that has happened.

Will OPS raise a banner of revolt at a later date, closer to the election?

If given powers to the steering committee for selection, the controversy shall be put to rest.

How will the selection of candidates happen for next year's assembly election? What is the process that will be followed? Who will sign the B form submitted to the Election Commission by candidates, for instance?

The party hierarchy remains the same. The coordinator and the joint coordinator will both sign the B form.

Will Sasikala's release, which is expected before the election, have any impact on your party? Will she be readmitted into the AIADMK?

Absolutely not! She is not a member of the AIADMK. A certain section of the media doesn't want to believe this. Legally. she is not in the AIADMK.

What about her nephew T T V Dhinakaran's Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, are you open for a merger with it?

(Laughs) Where is their identity? After the (October 2019) bye-elections and the parliamentary elections where is their identity?

Even if you don't think so, the Opposition parties are going to mention the fissures in your party in their election campaign. How will you tackle it?

The agenda taken up by the Opposition is that all is not well in the AIADMK. They are not going to talk about the performance of the government. Tamil Nadu is among the best governed states.

They will insist that there are fissures in the government. They will continue to plant stories with their fake agendas, in media houses friendly to them and run by them.

What are the positives that you are going to fight the elections on?

Positives are the truth. What we have promised and what we have achieved. People in Tamil Nadu have realised that whatever the DMK has said has never been proved.

We have protected the Cauvery basin, it is an agricultural protected zone now. We stuck to the two-language formula. We have allocated 7.5% seats to students from government schools in medical colleges.

They accused us of scams, but they haven't been able to prove even one scam.

They change their stance when they are in power and when they are in the Opposition. When they are in the Opposition they are against their own welfare schemes. People clearly understand their double standards.

People also clearly know that M K Stalin (of the DMK) is not leadership material. With so much of opportunities in front of him, nothing worked in his favour, putting pressure on his leadership qualities.

What about the cases that are pending against a few ministers in your government?

Our ministers never shied away from cooperating with the officials when they have been called for any enquiry or clarifications.

They have extended the fullest cooperation and will come out clean.

What about your alliances? Specifically, will the AIADMK tie up with the Bharatiya Janata Party? If not, why not?

The coordinator announced that EPS will be the CM candidate. We have an alliance now. Our high command will take an appropriate decision at an appropriate time.

EPS has been critical of the BJP. Do you fear the loss of minority votes if you tie up with the BJP, as happened in the 2019 Lok Sabha election? /strong>

There is a perception of the minority people that whatever laws were passed by the central government are detrimental to them. The Opposition was successful in propagating these kinds of false narratives.

The belief of the people of Tamil Nadu that encompasses all caste, creed and religion is that the AIADMK is a true secular party.

In the Opposition the DMK indulges in pleasing the minorities and they don't hesitate to hurt the beliefs and sentiments of the majority whenever possible.

The best example is the Kanda Sashti controversy orchestrated by the Dravida Kazhagam and the DMK played second fiddle to the same.

What about Rajinikanth? Kamal Hassan? Will the AIADMK tie up with them?

The alliances will be decided by the high command. The doors are always open for anyone who believes in the AIADMK leadership and its ideology.,

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A GANESH NADAR / Rediff.com
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