Chennai: A day after V K Sasikala’s audio clips leaked, signalling her intention of a political comeback, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (AIADMK) co-convener KP Munusamy suggested that Sasikala should keep away from the party for the sake of late J Jayalalithaa. “If Amma’s soul has to be in peace, it is better she (Sasikala) keeps quiet and keeps away,” Munusamy told reporters in Veppanahalli town. He also warned her of “retribution” if she chose to fight for regaining control of the party she headed briefly as interim general secretary after Jayalalithaa’s demise in December 2016.
“There is no circumstance under which she can enter the party. There is no possibility… Every single AIADMK cadre is clear about it,” he added.
After the AIADMK lost power to DMK in the assembly polls in the election results announced on May 3, Sasikala’s two audio clips speaking to party men went viral on Sunday. She is telling some party cadre that she will soon return to “set everything right”. The cadre responding to her suggested that a group within the AIADMK is still waiting for her.
Munusamy claimed that some forces were trying to cause “confusion” in the AIADMK ranks by using Sasikala in the “forefront”, at a time when AIADMK was performing its function as the main opposition party in the Tamil Nadu assembly.
“Not a single AIADMK cadre will fall for this confusion. Their intention will not come true. I also listened to the audio clips. No cadre has spoken to her. She is the one who is calling them,” Munusamy said. During her phone conversations, Sasikala is also heard saying that she will not watch the party they built with difficulties go to waste while referring to the rift between the party’s dual leadership —co-coordinator Edappadi Palaniswami and coordinator O Panneerselvam. Almost a month after elections are over in Tamil Nadu, the relationship between Palaniswami and Panneerselvam is bordering hostility. The decision to choose a leader of the opposition (LoP), which eventually went to Palaniswami unanimously as he was the chief minister candidate, renewed the friction between the duo. Panneerselvam signed a document declaring Palaniswami as the LoP and left the party headquarters on May 11.
Hours later, Palaniswami drove to meet Panneerselvam at his official Chennai residence to drape a shawl over him and give him a bouquet, and photos were released.
Since then, silence ensued in the party, which has not held a meeting due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and both leaders have been working individually. Palaniswami is his native in Salem district since the lockdown was imposed. “He is expected to come to Chennai only after lockdown norms ease, and he is overseeing Covid-19 work here,” said an associate in Palaniswami’s team.
Panneerselvam reached Chennai on Monday after spending two weeks in his hometown in the Theni district where he has been since the death of his brother O Balamurugan on May 14. In the last few days, he too has been attending review meetings in the district. “Now that he is back we need to discuss the situation,” said a senior AIADMK leader not wishing to be named.
The cold feud between the two leaders became more obvious after Palaniswami and Panneerselvam began issuing statements independently. While Palaniswami’s statements and letters are released by the party headquarters officially in his capacity as LoP, Panneerselvam’s statements come through informal channels such as Twitter and his office. Panneerselvam has been tweeting statements to chief minister M K Stalin to take action on several matters related to Covid-19 work and if it is addressed, he thanks them.
On Monday Palaniswami’s letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking for more drugs to treat mucormycosis was released by the AIADMK. “I don’t understand why they are issuing letters separately. Whatever may be the problems, what they are doing is wrong,” said a party functionary on condition of anonymity. “Only senior leaders can advise them on this.”
However, party-related matters are released with the signatures of both leaders. Two joint statements on AIADMK’s letterhead have been issued recently – first to expel former labour minister Nilofer Kafeel from the party and another warning cadre against indulging in anti-party activities.
Experts say that Palaniswami and Panneerselvam have to act together to keep the confidence of the party. “There are too many questions hanging in this situation,” says political commentator Durai Karunanidhi. “Munusamy’s comments aren’t enough. The leadership should hold a meeting or issue a joint statement on the lines of offering clarity to party men.”