'When they completely surrender to the BJP or the BJP has completely taken over the party, what's the point in the AIADMK surviving and doing business in the state?'
Ever since J Jayalalithaa passed away on the 6th of December 2016, the All India Anna Dravida Kazagham in Tamil Nadu has been described as a party that is controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre.
It was speculated that the BJP created the two power centres in the AIADMK: Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and O Paneerselvam (OPS).
Last week's general council meeting which saw EPS emerging as the sole leader and OPS's expulsion from the party is seen by political observers as the AIADMK trying to get away from the BJP's clutches.
"The resistance to OPS comes not because there is a conflict between OPS and EPS in the power struggle, but because OPS has taken the party closer to the BJP and made it a shadow of the BJP," Dr Ramu Manivannan, former head and professor of political science at Madras University, tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier in the first of a two-part interview.
Against the background of the high drama that unfolded at the AIAMDK party headquarters on July 11 and within the party, do you see the 'two leaves' (the party's election symbol) withering away?
If you are talking about two leaves withering away in the philosophical or metaphorical way, I would say it will be contested politically.
Beyond a point, it will be a numbers game within the party. And when it comes to numbers, the large numbers are going the EPS way.
OPS may be able to give a big push given the fact that he has the backing of the BJP and the personal relationship he has with (Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas) Modi and the other leadership within the BJP to put pressure on the Election Commission.
Still, I feel the BJP will not go too far to support OPS because he fell off his strategy to take control of the party.
What he and his followers did by ransacking the party office was completely illegal.
If (Jayalalitha's companion V K) Sasikala, (Sasikala's nephew and general secretary of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazagam) T T V Dinakaran, OPS come together to stake a claim that the AIADMK party symbol truly belongs to them, then there will be a contest for the symbol.
But the party resolution is in favour of EPS and his group right now.
It is going to be a long drawn legal battle for 'two leaves'.
The resistance to OPS comes not because there is a conflict between OPS and EPS in the power struggle, but because OPS has taken the party closer to the BJP and made it a shadow of the BJP.
So, you feel the split among the party people is mainly ideological?
Exactly. It is also true that nobody cares or talks about ideology in the AIADMK, but they know they have to stay in business as an Opposition party.
When they completely surrender to the BJP or the BJP has completely taken over the party, what's the point in the AIADMK surviving and doing business in the state?
Do you think it was the BJP's game plan all along as they have been talking about the day when they will be the main Opposition party against the DMK?
Certainly, it has been the plan for the BJP for long to completely weaken and debilitate the AIADMK.
But if you look at both the parties, you will see that there is a vast difference between the two.
Like for example, the number of veteran leaders the AIADMK has with a history of long tenure in politics.
Does anyone in the BJP among the visible faces have more than five years of political experience in state politics including Mr Annamalai (the former IPS officer who is the state BJP president)? Nobody.
The AIADMK is a recognised political party carrying on the legacy of M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa.
I am sure the party is not going to die when you just pull the plug.
Yes, EPS or OPS can take over the party with one-and-a-half crores of membership, but you will see that none of these members were admitted by them.
So, what is the future for the AIADMK? Both EPS and OPS together could not fill the vacuum left behind by Jayalalithaa...
Actually, the situation became complicated because there were two leaders. It makes no sense at all to have two power centres within the party.
OPS is not as simplistic as he appears. He neither projects himself as a leader nor runs away from leadership.
You can compare him to a jelly fish that changes its shape according to the circumstances.
It's not that I appreciate EPS.
The fact is, the party is close to disintegration now.
Many of the members do not want to go back to Sasikala.
You mean, the possibility of Sasikala taking over the party is remote?
She can take over the party, but she is not the future.
The reason is, the whole party affairs has been stage-managed ever since Jayalalithaa got admitted in hospital. It applies to Sasikala also in a very big way.
What is happening today within the AIADMK is a political transition, and all political transitions are painful.
There is no painless transition in any political party.
Even when the DMK split, and MGR started a new party, it was not without any pain.
MGR had to take many chances to survive then, and he was very uncertain about the future. But he had an image to rely on and take advantage of.
In the case of Sasikala or TTV, people knew they lived out of Jayalalithaa's charm, and their political career also revolved around the life and death of Jayalalithaa.
Soon after the death of Jayalalithaa itself, I did say that Sasikala would not be able to survive the mass test.
In fact, when she put up her posters all over the state then, they did not even last for more than three hours. They were pulled down by common people.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com