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Why Edappadi Palaniswami and Annamalai pour scorn on each other

AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami and BJP Tamil Nadu president K Annamalai are at each other’s throats. Again. On Friday, Annamalai said AIADMK would have come third, if not fourth, if it contested the Vikravandi byelection; and EPS said it’s because of people like Annamalai that BJP couldn’t form the Union govt on its own.

EPS had attributed his party’s decision to boycott the Vikravandi poll to alleged electoral malpractice by DMK in the Erode East byelection last year. Annamalai poked fun at this, asking if EPS would apply the same logic in 2026 and make his party stay away from the assembly election. EPS isn’t functioning as a responsible opposition leader, he added. The AIADMK general secretary said Annamalai lied throughout the Lok Sabha election campaign; Annamalai said EPS stabbed Modi in the back. EPS called Annamalai a liar. Annamalai called EPS a betrayer. And that appears to have put the lid on the probability of a united opposition against DMK in the election on July 10.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, so we cannot rule out a reunion for the 2026 polls, but why is the bitterness between the two leaders growing every passing day? Beneath the emotional outbursts is a possible erosion of AIADMK’s rank and file who BJP is trying to attract to its camp. Annamalai’s aggression is to catalyse this migration; EPS’s counterattack is to show he can match anyone in lung power and that Annamalai is not an honest leader that his straying cadres should fall for. EPS was, inadvertently, admitting to a possible erosion of his base when he warned that deserters would not be taken back into AIADMK.

Lower-level cadres and followers of AIADMK who are practicing Hindus are more likely to be attracted to the saffron brigade than DMK though the latter has gone soft on its rationalist ideals. EPS has so far proved doomsayers wrong by keeping the party and a considerable vote share alive, but another electoral defeat could make a substantial number of its followers look elsewhere.

But Annamalai may not have it easy. His planned ascent to the No.2 slot in Tamil Nadu politics faces the next threat from actor Vijay whose Tamilaga Vettri Kazhagam (TVK) is expected to contest the 2026 assembly election. Vijay threw his hat in the ring with the recent statement that Tamil Nadu lacks a good leader. So far, TVK has come across as a party with a regional, even a sub-national, identity and a secular outlook. And that makes it a natural rival for BJP which has tried to label the actor as a Christian. It may not be by accident that Vijay wore a tilak on his forehead at a recent event in Chennai.

Vijay’s gradual initiation into public space seems to be well planned, starting with non-controversial, positive statements at seemingly apolitical events. His stand against NEET – his first statement on a policy – was well received. The first indication of public support for him as a politician, however, will be known only when he fires the first salvo at a politician. While some whisper campaigns suggest that Vijay may not be averse to having some allies, common sense tells us that an entrant with such great expectations should face the first election alone as a litmus test.  Till Vijay spells it out, his only definitive rival will be someone who answers to the name Kuppusamy Annamalai.



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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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