This Article is From Apr 10, 2019

"Seeking Votes On Amma's Behalf": AIADMK Banks On Jayalalithaa Magic

AIADMK leader and Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu O Panneerselvam asserts in an interview to NDTV that his party has its own ideology.

AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam (right) says the party has always offered protection for minorities.

New Delhi:

Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK, which has an alliance with the BJP for the national election, says ideologically it doesn't believe in the caste system or religious differences and wants an India in which minorities are protected.

AIADMK's top leader O Panneerselvam, the deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, asserts in an interview to NDTV that his party has its own ideology. Asked whether AIADMK's alliance with the BJP was based on ideology or just for elections, OPS, as he is popularly known, had a careful response.

"Our organisation has its own ideology. One caste, one god. Our leader Amma believed and followed that. For minorities, our party always offered protection. That was the AIADMK's political ideology and stand, from the time of MGR (MG Ramachandran, the AIADMK founder) to Amma (J Jayalalithaa)," he told NDTV.

"India is a land of multiple languages, castes and religions. No one can be isolated on this. To have protection for the minorities in the country is a matter of pride for India."

One of the BJP's star campaigners, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, was asked whether he believed in the caste system. He replied in the affirmative, reflecting what is seen as the mindset of many in the BJP.

OPS replied: "What we believe in is humanitarianism. No caste."

An ideologically different ally is just one of the contradictions the AIADMK carries as it fights its first national election after the death of its charismatic and powerful leader J Jayalalithaa - referred to by the party cadre as Amma or mother -- in 2016.

"Amma's going away was unexpected. It is a huge loss that can never be compensated in our lifetime. Till we are alive, it will remain a loss," said OPS, who was Jayalalithaa's choice for stand-in when she was forced to quit office and who famously kept her photo on a chair as Chief Minister in her absence.

"We are talking about Amma's schemes to the people and asking for their votes on her behalf. They will definitely vote for us."

The AIADMK, one of the two behemoths in Tamil Nadu, has been struggling with infighting and a vulnerable leadership over the past two years. A rebel faction supports Jayalalithaa's longtime aide VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, who have been trying to take control of the party.

After Jayalalithaa's death, Sasikala removed OPS as interim chief minister and attempted to take over but failed as she was jailed for corruption. OPS, who had broken away with a group, returned to the party fold after a patch-up with Chief Minister E Palanisamy, a Sasikala nominee who turned against her.

Dhinakaran's victory in by-polls in Jayalalithaa's assembly constituency was a big boost for the rebels.

"Dhinakaran's only motive is to grab party power and for the family to take over," said OPS. "We don't see him as a leader at all."

Asked whether Dhinakaran could potentially be king-maker after the election, OPS said: "He is imagining all that. People don't share his view."

Tamil Nadu votes for Lok Sabha and assembly by-elections on April 18, the second round of the national polls starting Thursday. The results will be announced on May 23.