'One quiver cannot have two different kinds of arrows.'
'The party cannot progress with two leaders.'
The June 23, 2022 general council meeting of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham sawn unprecedented scenes when former chief minister O Paneerselvam was booed allegedly by supporters of Edappadi K Palaniswami, another former CM and the current leader of the Opposition in the Tamil Nadu assembly.
Since the late J Jayalalitha's death in December 2016, the AIADMK leadership has been divided between OPS and EPS. During the AIADMK's last stint in government which ended in May 2021, EPS was chief minister, OPS deputy chief minister.
After the party lost power, OPS was appointed party coordinator, EPS joint coordinator. In the assembly, EPS was the leader of the Opposition, OPS the deputy leader.
In recent weeks, there have been repeated calls for the party to have a single leader, the demand reaching a crescendo at the June 23 general council meeting, attended by the party's district secretaries.
With the Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday, July 6, the AIADMK can go ahead with its general council meeting on Monday, July 11, where it is expected that EPS will be formally anointed the party's supreme leader, a position held earlier by its charismatic founder M G Ramachandran and the formidable Jayalalitha.
D Jayakumar is a former speaker of the Tamil Nadu assembly, a former minister and a very senior AIADMK leader.
"After Amma passed away, we needed someone to lead the party and we have selected EPS," Jayakumar, below, left, tells Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar.
Your party is having two general council meetings within a month with a single point agenda of having a single leader. What is the hurry?
Time decides everything. The time has come for a single leader. One quiver cannot have two different kinds of arrows. The party cannot progress with two leaders. The party believes that we need one leader.
At the general council meeting we discussed it and decided to have a single leader. Our entire cadre in Tamil Nadu wants it.
This is the right time for a single leader. Intra-party problem must not go to court.
We had to have a second general council meeting to select a single leader and we are having it on July, 11.
Your dual leadership lasted while you were in power. What has changed since you are now in the Opposition?
Party is important, it is our heart. In power or in the Opposition, the party is the same. The cadre wants fast decisions. This is not possible with two leaders.
Our entire cadre wants one leader. The party is important and it is important for the party to have one leader.
OPS was twice appointed by Amma to be chief minister. What has happened now that he has lost favour with the party?
The people of the state are the most important factor you have to consider. The party is because of the cadre. Only the cadre can decide who will be their leader.
He (OPS) has lost the support of the cadre because of his latest moves and action.
1.5 crore (15 million) cadres have taken this decision. OPS has failed because of his actions.
After you select a single leader, what post will OPS occupy? After all, he is a three time chief minister.
That cannot be decided by Jayakumar (laughs), it will be decided in the next general council meeting.
Is his support to V K Sasikala a reason for his present status?
Social media is accessible in every village. Everyone is reading everything on their smart phones. You cannot hide anything.
He did Dharma Yudham against Sasikala. Now he is supporting her. He is giving statements supporting her.
He praised DMK Minister Durai Murugan who insulted Jayalalitha in the assembly in 1989.
His son is praising Stalin (DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister).
He sent his brother to meet Sasikala.
His district party unit passed a resolution supporting Sasikala. You think the cadre is not seeing this.
Our ideology is against DMK. MGR started the party to oppose them. Amma always opposed the DMK. How can you praise the DMK? How will the cadre support this?
Do you think outsiders are trying to break the party?
We don't allow third party interference in our party. Nobody interferes in our party as we don't allow it.
Do you think EPS has the charisma of MGR and Amma?
You cannot compare anyone to MGR and Amma. They are on a different plane. After Amma passed away, we needed someone to lead the party and we have selected EPS.
Do you see any legal problems in your quest for single leadership? There are so many cases in court.
The cadres are the heart of the party. Everyone should follow it. Going to court doesn't help. We are following the bye-laws of the party. We will face it in court.
What about the petition that OPS has given to the Election Commission?
We will reply to that.
Your general council has clearly supported EPS, what about the cadre?
There are 234 seats in the Tamil Nadu assembly. They represent 6 crore (60 million) people. The general council is the same, it reflects the desire of the cadres.
Will you lose the support of the Mukkulothar community by sidelining OPS?
Our party is beyond caste and religion. Tamilians are not narrow minded. Mukkulothars did not support Sasikala or T T V Dinakaran. They have always voted for us.
What do you think the people of Tamil Nadu expect from the AIADMK?
The public have a lot of expectations from our party. It is a 50-year-old party.
Both MGR and Amma have governed and worked for the people. EPS has also worked for the people.
We continue to work for the people. The public knows that we will work for them. We believe in social justice.
We work for all sections of the people from MGR's time, from Amma's time to the present.
Winning and losing elections is a part of politics. We will win the next election and work for the people.
We provide better governance than the DMK and the people know that.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com