EPS vs OPS...How the Rajya Sabha race has sparked a fresh dispute in an already frailing ADMK?

It's time for some election-driven political jolts and disputes in Tamil Nadu and though the upcoming polls would be for Rajya Sabha, where there will be no role for direct voters, the ongoing intra-party tussles have been sparking a fresh dispute in finalizing the candidates. Tamil Nadu's Opposition party ADMK, which has already been frailing over the leadership crisis and back to back electoral defeats, is witnessing a dispute between the top two leaders to win a seat for their favourite candidates. 

The Rajya Sabha polls for six seats from Tamil Nadu will be held on June 10. Of these six seats, DMK holds three and ADMK holds the rest. Given its strength at the assembly, DMK can win four seats and ADMK can settle for two seats. While the DMK had announced its candidates for three seats with allotting the other seat to its ally Congress, the ADMK is finding it difficult to make an official announcement due to the intra-party race between the seniors to get a seat. 

The ADMK can win two seats but the two power centres in the party are yet to arrive at a consensus in finalizing the candidates. According to reports, ADMK's joint coordinator Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) aims to nominate his close associates D Jayakumar and CV Shanmugam, both were former ministers, to the two Rajya Sabha seats, ADMK's coordinator O Panneerselvam (OPS) has other plans as he aims to nominate his close associate Syed Ahmed Khan, who is the party's Theni district president. 

According to IANS, though the two leaders have their own choices, a recently-held brainstorming session of the party has brought out some suggestions, including considering one candidate with a legal background. It has been reported that senior leader and former minister Valarmathi, who attended the session, told both EPS and OPS that nominating and sending a person with a legal background to the Rajya Sabha would give the party a good standing. She further said that the DMK has senior lawyers in Rajya Sabha. 

The ADMK leadership has also been discussing nominating a candidate from the southern part of Tamil Nadu due to the party's traditional base in the south. With the party's strong vote bank, the Thevar community has a predominant base in Southern Tamil Nadu, Panneerselvam plans to field a candidate from the community in the midst of growing support in the community to expelled ADMK's General Secretary VK Sasikala, who belongs to the community. 

With no trouble from the allied parties as both the PMK and BJP had announced their support for the ADMK in the Rajya Sabha polls, the opposition party is finding ways to reach a consensus. The reports say that both the power centres are refusing to withdraw their decision of fielding their favourite candidates even as the cadres await the final announcement. While the DMK had announced the candidates the next day after the election notification was issued, the ADMK is still yet to decide the candidates. 

The credible sources assert that CV Shanmugam could win a seat while several leaders like Semmalai, Gokula Indira, D Jayakumar, and Valarmathi are also in the race to win a seat. Earlier this week, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK President MK Stalin has named three candidates for the Rajya Sabha polls while allotting a seat for its ally, the Congress party. Six Rajya Sabha seats will fall vacant in the state and of these six vacancies, DMK and ADMK have three members each.

As per the current tally in the assembly, the DMK and its alliance can win four seats unopposed while ADMK can grab two seats to its kitty. The DMK has announced that of those three current candidates, the party would retain the candidacy of KRN Rajeshkumar, who was elected unopposed to the upper house last year in a by-poll. The two other members - TKS Elangovan and RS Bharathi won't be given another term and to replace them, MK Stalin has named two new candidates.

The two new candidates are- Thanjai Su Kalyanasundaram, a party veteran and district secretary of Thanjavur north district, and R Girirajan, the party's legal wing secretary. The DMK has awarded one seat to the Congress party, as agreed during the 2021 state assembly polls. A race has begun in the Congress party to win that one seat and according to reports, veteran Congress leader and former union minister P Chidambaram eyes to enter the Rajya Sabha for the first time from Tamil Nadu by grabbing this one seat.

While winning three seats in the Rajya Sabha would keep the total strength of DMK intact with ten members, Tamil Nadu's main opposition ADMK would see its strength declining. The ADMK, which now has five members in the upper house, would have four members after the polls. ADMK's three members A Navaneethakrishnan, SR Balasubramoniyan, and A Vijayakumar are at the end of their tenure. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has issued notifications for the Rajya Sabha polls on May 12 and along with Tamil Nadu, over 50 seats in 15 states would go for the polls from June to August as their terms are set to expire.