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  India   Politics  17 Feb 2018  Edappadi Palaniswami maintains grip over party, cabinet

Edappadi Palaniswami maintains grip over party, cabinet

THE ASIAN AGE. | J V SIVA PRASANNA KUMAR
Published : Feb 17, 2018, 4:17 am IST
Updated : Feb 17, 2018, 4:20 am IST

It's certainly not as if EPS in engaged and engrossed only in the art of political manoeuvering while giving administration the go-by.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami (Photo: Asian Age)
 Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami (Photo: Asian Age)

True, lacking Jayalalithaa’s charisma and the absolute command she wielded over the party, EPS has been unable to reshuffle his cabinet even when some ministers came under the shadow of corruption. Similarly, the party has been talking in too many voices. While the high court verdict on the disqualification of 18 MLAs is awaited, it is widely expected that the EPS government could run the full course of its term till 2021. If that happens. it would frustrate the plans of Stalin and Dhinakaran and also give EPS the opportunity to emerge as a leader in his own right.

Chennai: None, not even his closest friend or family, would have imagined he would become the chief minister some day. And not many even among his dearest admirers would have believed he would be able to hold the reins this long and with such confidence, even élan, amid all that post-Jayalalithaa turbulence stirred worse by robust challenger TTV Dhinakaran.

To Edappadi K. Palaniswami must go the credit of being not just a survivor of heavy odds but also a master strategist who stemmed the migration of his MLAs in the early stages to quickly subdue the rival faction of O. Panneerselvam and thereafter seal the AIADMK merger on his own terms while conceding only the position of deputy CM to the rebel-come-home.

In the post-merger make up, EPS could still maintain grip over the AIADMK despite being the deputy to OPS becoming the number-one as the ‘convener’ of the party. And in the distribution of cabinet portfolios and party posts, the Kongu strongman held his sway rather well. Political observers see in all this assertive metamorphosis the benevolent saffron hand, pointing to the gradual fall of OPS from Delhi’s patronage.

When he did his Marina revolt, February 7 last year, OPS seemed to enjoy the support of the BJP and the confidence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he would be able to manage the post-Jaya situation well in the state but the deft handling of the party at that time saw EPS emerge as the ultimate winner on all fronts.

True, EPS was handpicked by Sasikala to be her CM candidate when her own ambition to sit on the throne was shot down by the Supreme Court verdict sending her to jail in the Disproportionate Assets case on 14 February (2017). Earlier, it was PM Modi who stood in the way when she had her CM plans even as the embalmers were getting Jayalalithaa ready for the final rites. At the Apollo and later at the Rajaji Hall, it was clearly OPS in the role of the Chosen One to succeed, of course under the saffron umbrella but then, Sasikala had her last laugh replacing the man with her own loyalist, EPS.

That he quickly gravitated from the Mannargudi clan towards setting up his own political roadmap for the AIADMK and the state of Tamil Nadu places EPS at several notches above the rest in the ruling party in terms of intelligent planning and sharp execution. Rival politicians do fling an arrow now and then calling him and his government as the benamis of the BJP but the AIADMK ministers have learnt the easy knack of arguing that cordial relations with the Centre is necessary to get the state its due share.

An AIADMK old-timer, who wished anonymity, has an interesting interpretation of the government's celebration of MGR's centenary year - this is akin to the Indian emperors indulging in Ashwamedha Yatra (sending a horse with an army) across the kingdom and even beyond to establish supremacy. “These MGR nootraandu vizha programmes at all the district headquarters, to be finally climaxed in super-grand manner at Chennai, is EPS' Ashwamedha Yatra. He wants to show he is in control”.

Critics do point out that EPS can hardly be a Jayalalithaa when it comes to exercising absolute control over the party or the ministry - in fact, she was unmatched even nationally in this aspect - since he must yield to pressures from party seniors and the members in the cabinet just to avoid the boat from being rocked. The government must last its term till 2021 but then, the need for stability should be an equal concern for his colleagues as well because none would want an election and that indeed is the trump card in the CM’s hand.

It's certainly not as if EPS in engaged and engrossed only in the art of political manoeuvering while giving administration the go-by. His government has successfully weathered the storms of the transport strike, criticism of a rut in the education system and lack of economic progress. Apart from the serious efforts to upgrade school syllabus, rationalise bus fares and maintain grip over the law and order situation across the state, the Global Investors’ Meet (January 2019) now announced is the latest of the many strong measures to show that the man means business.

From Jaya’s death to one year of EPS govt
December 5, 2016: J. Jayalalithaa passes away
Dec.10, 2016: Majority of AIADMK leaders request Sasikala to take over as party chief
Dec.29, 2016: AIADMK general council appoints V. K. Sasikala as general secretary
Dec. 31, 2016: V. K. Sasikala takes over as AIADMK general secretary
Feb. 5, 2017: Sasikala elected as AIADMK Legislature Party leader
Feb. 7, 2017: O. Panneerselvam revolts against Sasikala; says he was forced to resign
Feb. 8, 2017: AIADMK MLAs shifted to Koovathur resort near Chennai
Feb.13, 2017: Sasikala stays overnight at the Koovathur resort with her MLAs
Feb.14, 2017: Edappadi K. Palaniswami elected as AIADMK Legislature party leader after Sasikala was convicted in disproportionate assets case by the Supreme Court
Feb.15, 2017: Sasikala lodged in Parapana Agrahara prison in Bengaluru; she appoints TTV Dhinakaran as deputy general secretary
Feb. 16, 2017: Edappadi K. Palaniswami sworn-in as chief minister
Feb. 18, 2017: Edappadi K. Palaniswami government wins trust vote amid boycott by DMK members
Feb. 24, 2017: Edappadi K Palaniswami meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time after sworn-in as CM in Coimbatore
March 16, 2017: Finance minister D Jayakumar presents the State Budget; the first by the EPS government
April 2017: OPS and EPS camp mull over merger; forms committee to negotiate merger
April 18, 2017: EPS camp distances itself from Sasikala and her family
April 25, 2017: Dhinakaran arrested in Election Commission bribery case
June 5, 2017: Dhinakaran gives two month deadline for factions to unite; says he will stay away from party till August 4
June 11, 2017: OPS disbands merger committee; says merger thing of past
Aug.1, 2017: EPS holds meeting with party office-bearers and ask them not to have any truck with Dhinakaran
Aug.10, 2017: EPS camp virtually removes Dhinakaran from AIADMK
Aug. 11, 2017: EPS meets Modi in New Delhi; merger talks put on fast track
Aug.17, 2017: EPS announces probe into Jayalalithaa's death and converts Poes Garden residence into memorial
Aug.21, 2017: EPS-OPS factions unite; OPS takes oath as deputy chief minister
Aug. 22, 2017: 18 MLAs owing allegiance to Dhinakaran meet Governor and withdraw their support to Chief Minister Palaniswami
Aug. 24, 2017: Speaker P. Dhanapal sends notice to all 18 MLAs asking why they cannot be disqualified
Sept. 12, 2017: AIADMK general council headed by EPS-OPS meets, removes Sasikala from interim general secretary post
Sept. 18, 2017: Speaker Dhanapal disqualifies 18 MLAs
Sept. 20, 2017: 18 MLAs move high court against Speaker's order
Nov. 23, 2017: EC allots Two Leaves symbol to EPS-OPS faction
Nov.24, 2017: EC announces by-poll to R K Nagar on December 21
Dec.24, 2017: EPS-OPS faction' candidate E. Madhusudhanan loses to Dhinakaran by over 40,000 votes
Dec. 25, 2017: EPS-OPS begin sacking party workers owing allegiance to Dhinakaran
Jan. 8, 2018: First session of TN Assembly in 2018 begins
Feb.12, 2018: Chief Minister announces second edition of Global Investors' Meet in January 2019
Feb.16, 2018: Chief Minister completes one year in office

Shunning celebrations on completion of one year, EPS will utilise Jayalalithaa's birth anniversary celebrations on February 24 to list out his achievements.

Tags: edappadi palaniswami, ttv dhinakaran, jayalalithaa
Location: India, Tamil Nadu, Chennai (Madras)