Climax in ADMK: EPS takes charge as ADMK's General Secretary...What's next for OPS?

The political infight between the top leaders Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) and O Panneerselvam (OPS) in ADMK has possibly come to the climax as the legal battle between both of them has on Tuesday taken a favourable turn for EPS and OPS, on the other hand, is bracing up an unprecedented political plight. The Madras High Court on Tuesday backed EPS in a crucial verdict and cleared way for his political elevation. 

Following the verdict, EPS has taken charge as the party's General Secretary. He has ascended to the helm after years of intra party crisis, chaos, and criticisms. Five years back, when both EPS and OPS joined together after a brief dissent, they agreed that the demised supremo J Jayalalithaa would be the party's permanent general secretary and that the post will be reserved for her. 

Later, the party quashed the position of general secretary and EPS and OPS continued to remain ADMK's powerhouse until a strong divide that emerged when EPS moved to take over the command of the party completely with a backing of senior leaders and majority of cadres. The rift for single leadership between both of them got widened and sparked a legal and political war. 

In July 2022, the ADMK has convened its general council meeting during which the party passed resolutions against OPS and hailed the leadership of EPS as he was elected as the party's interim General Secretary .Though ADMK faced several electoral debacles, the infight kept brewing and amid the tussle, EPS later announced that OPS and his associates were expelled from the party and he also urged the Assembly Speaker to remove OPS from the post of Deputy Opposition Leader and award it to senior ADMK leader RB Udhayakumar, who belongs to OPS's community.  

EPS has held advantage when it came to lead the party as he had the support of most number of ADMK MLAs, MPs, district secretaries, and functionaries. Though OPS had a dim prospect to defeat EPS, he was waging a legal battle and he also sought the court to ban the last year's general council meeting and its resolutions. His plea was heard by the Supreme Court and after hearing the plea, the court said that the general council meeting was valid and asked OPS to approach the Madras High Court to seek ban on the resolutions passed at the meeting. 

With the setback, OPS moved to the high court against the meeting and against elevation of EPS. Amidst the legal tussle, there was an electoral battle for ADMK in the Erode East bypoll. For the bypoll, the Election Commission acknowledged EPS as ADMK's leader and allotted the party's 'Two leaves' symbol to him. It was again a big setback for OPS and though ADMK lost the bypoll, the Election Commission's recognition for EPS pushed him to get elected as the party's General Secretary. 

In July 2022's meeting, the party passed the resolutions of bringing back the post of General Secretary and it was also announced that the general secretary election will be held in four months. However, the legal battle deferred the election and earlier this month, the party announced the election date for the general secretary post. EPS has filed nomination for the general secretary and as he was the only contender for the post, it was reported that he will get elected to the apex post unopposed. 

On the other hand, curbing EPS's elevation, OPS argued in the High Court against the general secretary election and he alleged that there were many irregularities. OPS also said that he will also contest in the election. Hearing his plea, Madras High Court bench headed by Justice Kumaresh Babu had issued a verdict to conduct the general secretary election but not to announce its results.

When the matter came to a hearing on March 22, OPS argued that he had served as the Chief Minister and Finance Minister of Tamil Nadu. "He has been with the party since 1977. He has held top posts from the party's treasurer and party's coordinator. He has served for the party during tough times and the post of coordinator has validity till 2026. He was ousted from the party without a clear reason or explanation. It is arbitrary and not fair. Moreover, there are several regulations to contest in the general secretary election", the counsel of OPS argued. 

The counsel further said, "With the view of not letting anyone to compete, the post of interim general secretary was created by scrapping the post of coordinator. They have taken this decision under the guise of having majority support, but it is against the vision of MGR, the founder of the party. The Election Commission has recognized the posts of coordinator and joint coordinator and it hasn't recognized the post of interim general secretary." 

The OPS legal team went on to argue that OPS would take back his petitions if the general secretary election will be held after releasing the list of members of the party. By citing that he will contest in the general secretary election if the regulations for the election are removed, OPS claimed that the party cadres weren't asked before resuming the post of general secretary. However, on the other hand, EPS argued that he has a majority of support in the party and the resolutions were passed at the general council meeting with the consent of the council members. 

After hearing the arguments, Justice Kumaresh Babu reserved the judgment and on Tuesday - March 28, the verdict was pronounced. The high court has dismissed the petitions of OPS challenging the general council resolutions and the general secretary election. The ban to announce the election results was also removed and the court has also refused to overturn the expulsion of OPS. Soon after the high court verdict, EPS took charge as the ADMK's general secretary. As he is only contender, he was elected unopposed and with the political elevation, EPS is rising as the party's face and force after J Jayalalithaa. Though the climax is almost over, OPS tends to continue the story of infight. The next stop for OPS is appealing against the high court's verdict.