EPS proved wrong the naysayers, who were sceptical of him emerging as a leader in his own right to keep the AIADMK flock together
Though vignettes from the lakeside resort at Koovathur, 80 km south of Chennai, in 2017 were not that complimentary to Edappadi K. Palaniswami despite his walking out of the premises as the chief minister designate, he managed to shrug off that image of a V.K. Sasikala acolyte soon. With Ms Sasikala holding the reins of AIADMK after the passing of its legendary leader J. Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016, Mr Palaniswami had to kowtow to her. But he soon proved wrong the naysayers, who were sceptical of him emerging as a leader in his own right to keep the AIADMK flock together despite his long association with the party as MP, MLA, minister and so on.
Now if the party’s cadre rally around Mr Palaniswami without any question it is because he turned out to be politically savvy, making the right moves at the right moment. Soon after Ms Sasikala was packed off to prison, he threw her out along with nephew T.T.V. Dinakaran, and magnanimously re-admitted O. Panneerselvam back to the party. But for Mr Panneerselvam’s open attempt to scuttle Ms Sasikala’s ascendency to the chief minister’s throne by staging a “Dharma Yudham” at the memorial of Ms Jayalalithaa, Mr Palaniswami might not have got the opportunity at Koovathur.
EPS wished to complete his term as chief minister without ruffling any feathers though he knew of Mr Panneerselvam’s aspirations to be CM and party head, which led him to rebel against Ms Sasikala. So Mr Palaniswami waited and struck at his rival after consolidating his position within the party by winning over the functionaries and leaders. Then he overcame the legal challenges valiantly to come out as the undisputed supremo of AIADMK. But to prove himself as a worthy successor of M.G. Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa, he may have to come out of the trappings of BJP. A tall order, that Mr Palaniswami might just accomplish, given his latest manoeuvres in the run up to the by-elections to Erode East.