‘Two Leaves’ Symbol: Don’t Write Dhinakaran’s Obituary Just Yet

The two leaves that were frozen for the better part of 2017, are back in electoral business.

Published
Opinion
5 min read
Though Dhinakaran has lost the battle of the symbol, it would be too early to write his political obituary.
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The two leaves that were frozen for the better part of 2017, are back in electoral business. The Edappadi Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam camp has been recognised by the Election Commission as the official AIADMK, thereby taking control of the ‘two leaves’ symbol. Left out in the cold is the VK Sasikala-TTV Dhinakaran faction, that was all along making the claim that it is the original party.

Also Read: EPS-OPS Win Battle for AIADMK’s Two Leaves Symbol

EPS-OPS Would be Seen as Jaya’s Inheritors

It is a political drama that saw many twists and turns. Rewind to April when EPS and Dhinakaran were together while representing to the Election Comission that they, and not the rebel OPS, should be recognised as the real AIADMK. After a furious game of musical chairs, OPS and EPS were nudged to shake hands and keep Dhinakaran out.

Quite a comedown for Sasikala who had decided that OPS will be the chief minister after Jayalalithaa’s death last December and then gave the chair to EPS in February when she had to go to jail. EPS and OPS have taken away the party, the symbol, and the chair from Sasikala. Lock, stock and barrel.

AIADMK workers of the ruling faction celebrate after the Election Commission decided to allot the ‘two leaves’ election symbol to the party in Chennai.
AIADMK workers of the ruling faction celebrate after the Election Commission decided to allot the ‘two leaves’ election symbol to the party in Chennai.
(Photo: IANS)
Without a doubt, winning the symbol is a shot in the arm for the ruling combine. Given the traction the ‘two leaves’ symbol enjoys in rural Tamil Nadu, especially in the southern part, it will bestow on EPS and OPS the halo of being the inheritors of the Jayalalithaa legacy.

Electorally, it is a huge advantage because many old-timers associate the symbol with MGR and vote for the symbol without caring who the candidate is.

Will the ‘Two Leaves’ End AIADMK’s Woes?

Interestingly, it will be first tested in the RK Nagar constituency, which is to elect its new MLA before 31 December. This was the constituency represented by Jayalalithaa, and the AIADMK will be under pressure to ensure its candidate wins the contest by an impressive margin, more so now that EPS and OPS have the symbol under their belt.

But will the return of the ‘two leaves’ mean the end of AIADMK’s woes? The ruling camp thinks so, pointing out how after Jayalalithaa got the ‘two leaves’ symbol when it was similarly frozen after MGR’s death and the split of the party into the Jayalalithaa and Janaki factions, which marked the beginning of her resurgence.

Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam during AIADMK General Council meeting in Chennai on 12 September 2017.
Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam during AIADMK General Council meeting in Chennai on 12 September 2017.
(Photo: IANS)

But it may not be so easy for EPS and OPS.

For one, the trust deficit between the two camps has not reduced and the merger is seen largely on paper. This was pointed out in so many words by Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan, who was the first senior leader to cross over to Panneerselvam’s side on that dramatic night of revolt in February.

“Are the hearts in sync three months after the merger,” he asked in a Facebook post this week, a not-so-veiled reference to the discomfort the erstwhile Panneerselvam team is feeling in the AIADMK.

That is because the OPS camp never wanted to merge, unless Panneerselvam got the chief minister post. But OPS was mollified with the ceremonial Deputy CM and party coordinator posts. The party coordination committee that was formed to run the party, with six members from OPS camp, has not met even once.

Maitreyan himself harboured dreams of becoming a minister at the Centre, and that has not happened either. His missive on social media is a message to Panneerselvam that he cannot take the support of his erstwhile colleagues for granted.

Does the ‘Two Leaves’ Symbol Increase Political Heft?

  1. Electorally, two-leaves symbol is an advantage for the EPS-OPS faction as old-timers associate the symbol with MGR.
  2. It won’t be so easy for EPS andOPS since the trust deficit between the two camps has only increased in the last few months.
  3. It is EPS who gained the most with the merger, and he’s likely to assert himself more now.
  4. While Dhinakaran has lost out in the battle of the symbol, dissenters will still flock to him.
  5. If the disqualification case goes against the unified AIADMK, EPS-OPS faction will project it as an attempt to bring down Amma’s government.

Too Early to Write Dhinakaran’s Obituary

It is EPS who gained the most, as the merger ensured the ‘two leaves’ symbol is now with him. It won’t be a surprise if he asserts himself more now, strengthening his hold over the party and the government. The Chief Minister is aware that OPS comparatively enjoys more goodwill than him, and the AIADMK is likely to witness a power struggle at the top, played out both directly and through proxies.

While Dhinakaran has lost out in the battle of the symbol, it will be foolhardy to write his political obituary. The Mannargudi family has deep pockets and considerable backing in the Thevar community.

While several fence sitters are likely to gravitate towards the ruling AIADMK since it has the official stamp on it, the disgruntled elements will see in Dhinakaran a rival AIADMK. Though with his legal issues, the road ahead will be anything but smooth for Dhinakaran.

Hope From the Disqualification Case

Dhinakaran will pin his hopes on the case relating to the disqualification of 18 MLAs, in the Madras High Court. If the court throws out the Speaker’s order leading to a floor test in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, Dhinakaran will fancy his chances of bringing down the government.

The flip side is that EPS and OPS, now emboldened by having got the symbol, will project it as an attempt by Dhinakaran to bring down Amma’s government.

Also Read: Next Hearing on Petitions By Disqualified AIADMK MLAs on 2 Nov

 A delegation of AIADMK MPs led by Dr V Maitreyan comes out of the Election Commission in New Delhi, on 16 February 2017.
A delegation of AIADMK MPs led by Dr V Maitreyan comes out of the Election Commission in New Delhi, on 16 February 2017.
(Photo: IANS)

Reminder of the Family Feud of Samajwadi Party

In the manner in which it has decided to give the symbol to the EPS-OPS-led party, the Election Commission (EC) has followed the principle it put in place when it allotted the Samajwadi Party symbol to Akhilesh Yadav, who was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh then and recently the JD(U) symbol to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. EC sources have indicated that they have gone by legislative numbers as a yardstick to determine the real AIADMK.

But it is Jaya TV that finds itself in an awkward position because it has ‘two leaves’ as part of its logo. The channel is now controlled by the Sasikala family and the owners will squirm at indirectly promoting a party symbol that no longer belongs to them.

(The writer is a senior journalist. He can be reached at @Iamtssudhir. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own.The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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