A festering battle for control of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) that broke out days after the death of J Jayalalithaa and hamstrung one of south India’s strongest political outfits appears to be nearing its end. The Madras high court on Tuesday rejected applications by O Panneerselvam challenging his expulsion from the party and the elevation of his rival, E Palaniswami, as the general secretary of the outfit. This is the third successive adverse judicial verdict that Mr Panneerselvam has suffered, and though he can appeal the decision, the path for his political return appears narrow. This is because Mr Palaniswami has expanded his hold over the cadre, appointed trusted lieutenants to key positions, and consolidated his reputation as an able administrator.
This is important for the AIADMK because the battle of attrition between the two camps has sapped the party of energy and direction, and left it a far weaker opponent to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which took advantage of a distracted rival to expand its footprint in the western parts of the state — a traditional AIADMK bastion — in last year’s local body polls. The constituency of women, backward groups and forward castes that Ms Jayalalithaa had assiduously built has also fragmented. If Mr Palaniswami emerges as the undisputed leader of his party, he will have his hands full in trying to steer the AIADMK to a position of strength and winning back disgruntled supporters who have drifted away in recent years. He will have to be on the lookout for VK Sasikala, who has said she retired, and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran. And it remains to be seen what impact this has on the troubled alliance of the AIADMK and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state. For now, it’s advantage EPS.