Though Palaniswami was the party’s CM candidate for poll, a section of MLAs favours Panneerselvam
A consensus is yet to emerge within the AIADMK on who should be the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly.
Party functionaries said though outgoing Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami was declared the party’s Chief Minister candidate for the Assembly poll, there was a section of MLAs that favoured party coordinator and outgoing Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam as the Leader of the Opposition.
Two former Ministers who spoke to The Hindu said the issue was yet to be decided and hoped the meeting of newly-elected party legislators on May 7 would put a full stop to the issue. This was a sensitive issue and it could not be decided in a hurry; hence, party MLAs had been called for the meeting on Friday evening, they said.
“The AIADMK’s decision to project Mr. Palaniswami as its Chief Minister candidate was only a stop-gap arrangement. The issue of dual leadership and the challenges it was creating in the party were not permanently resolved last October. Now that the election is over, and the AIADMK could not win, the issue has re-emerged,” said political analyst P. Ramajayam.
Since the AIADMK retained its stronghold in the western districts, from where Mr. Palaniswami hails, he stands to gain majority support from them, should there be a voting of sorts. His Chief Minister candidature also helped Mr. Palaniswami emerge as the face of the party, irrespective of its defeat.
“The situation is likely to go in Mr. Palaniswami’s favour. A majority of elected party MLAs are from the western region and the meeting on May 7 is of party MLAs and not functionaries,” said Mr. Ramajayam.
But Mr. Panneerselvam is no less in stature, as he was handpicked by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to succeed her, as a “stop gap” arrangement, twice. As Finance Minister for long, he has presented multiple State Budgets. His supporters feel Mr. Panneerselvam cannot be sidelined, as any statement issued by the party would have to be co-signed by him as well.
The post of the Leader of the Opposition is the next best thing that an outgoing Chief Minister would expect to hold because it would mean that he/she would continue to remain the face of the party, both in the Assembly and outside it, and would get to question the Chief Minister face-to-face. Losing that post would make it difficult for either of them to stake a claim to lead the party in the future.
Meanwhile, several newly-elected AIADMK MLAs continued to visit Mr. Palaniswami’s residence in Salem district. A party release sent photos of the same to the media.