Peace begins with a smile, said Mother Teresa, once upon a time. If there is any politician in TN who has lived those words literally, it ought to be our Leader of Opposition Edappadi K Palaniswami. His radiant smile and almost-sedated composure brought peace not just within his party but across the State during the turbulent times that followed his Amma Jayalalithaa’s demise in 2016.
With that ever-fresh demeanour and beaming smile, the Salem politician defiantly stood his ground against a raging MK Stalin desperate to overthrow his government, aggravated citizens who thronged the sands of the Marina beach during the Jallikattu protests, and even survived the anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi that cost at least 13 lives. To complement his composure, his deputy and AIADMK Coordinator O Panneerselvam was also equally zen. None, not even his closest associates in the AIADMK, could have detected any emotion in the stoic O Panneerselvam through the toughest of times. Even during his Dharma Yuddham, OPS’ was unflappable, and impeccably groomed and not once did he display any tension or disappointment. The last time time any noticeable emotion got detected on his face was when he latched on to PM Narendra Modi’s chest and wept during late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s funeral some six years ago – a move that earned Modi’s hand on his head.
But, now the same unflappable image seems to have gone against both EPS and OPS in their new roles as opposition leaders. Earlier this week, a beaming Palaniswami, with a stoic Panneerselvam next to him, reiterated to media reporters that they (AIADMK) were still the main opposition party in the state. Responding to BJP state vice president VP Duraisamy’s comment that AIADMK no longer looked like an Opposition party in the state, EPS clarified that while any party, except the one ruling the State, was an opposition party, AIADMK was the main opposition and that the public was aware of it.
The AIADMK-BJP relationship remains strong. Every leader would want their party to grow and encourage cadre. O Panneerselvam has himself declared, what ex-minister Ponnaiyan spoke was his personal views
And the need for them to reiterate their position as main opposition seems to have come as a result of state BJP Chief K Annamalai hogging media limelight while hitting out at the ruling DMK. Be it his relentless accusations against DMK for unreasonably favouring a construction firm or accusing the ruling party of cutting an Aavin contract for a health mix in favour of a private firm among other issues, he has constantly played the role of an aggressive opposition leader. As we know, taking up the state government on serious issues is not just the job of Leader of the Opposition but every responsible leader or citizen.But, questioning alleged irregularities and anomalies of the government fits the Leader of Opposition profile appropriately.
It is not that the AIADMK hasn’t questioned the ruling DMK on its role in not bringing down the allegedly increasing crime rate or in reducing petrol and diesel prices by waiving off state taxes etc. But, such accusations and allegations stated with a pleasing smile or sent out as a press release is like half-hearted punches. No one takes a smiling opponent seriously!
சென்னையில் கடந்த 20 நாட்களில் மட்டும்
18 கொலைகள் நடந்துள்ளது;
இது போன்ற நிகழ்வுகளால் தலைநகர் கொலைநகராக மாறி, சட்டம் ஒழுங்கு சீர்குலைந்து மக்களின் பாதுகாப்பு கேள்விகுறியாகி இருக்கிறது
– மாண்புமிகு சட்டமன்ற எதிர்க்கட்சி தலைவர் திரு. எடப்பாடி கே. பழனிசாமி அவர்கள்.
As Leader of Opposition until 2021, Chief Minister MK Stalin used every opportunity he got to slam the state government. Be it summer or winter, rainy weather or drought, Stalin and his senior associates came out all guns blazing against the ruling party for damaged roads, irregular water supply or even more trivial issues and in a way, reflected the public mood. Not many could have forgotten the ruckus that broke out in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in February 2017 during a confidence motion that Edappadi Palaniswami eventually won against a dissent OPS and his loyalists after the DMK MLAs staged a walkout. Following the scuffle in the assembly which included throwing chairs and even charging at the assembly speaker after the DMK members were not allowed a secret vote, DMK legislators led by Stalin marched out of the assembly. Visuals of MK Stalin storming out of a luxury car with his white shirt unbuttoned, pockets torn, and hair dishevelled in filmy style had, in a way, cemented the DMK leader’s position as a strong party president in full control of his cadre after his father M Karunanidhi’s demise. The following day, photographs of Stalin out on the street with his unbuttoned shirt hogged the media limelight and defined the image of the Opposition leader in TN.
In a way, the contrasting styles of Edappadi Palaniswami and Stalin as Leaders of Opposition reflect the grooming they received under their leaders. DMK stalwart and former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, whose political career grew out of the anti-Hindi agitation in 1953, rose to fame after he lay down on a railway track outside the Kallakudi railway station stalling a train movement protesting against the name change of Kallakudi to Dalmiapuram after a north Indian businessman. During a political career that spanned over six decades, MK has spent a significant time as an LoP and was known to be an accessible and hands-on leader, especially when he was in the opposition. Until his last days when ill health forced him out of active politics, his retort in the sharpest Tamil to every political development would reach his party cadre early in the morning irrespective of whether he was in power or out of it.
Late Chief Minister and AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa, as astute a politician as any in the country, however, preferred a subtler style of opposition and often retreated to the cool climes of Kodanad during her later years as Leader of Opposition. While press communique and sharp-witted retorts were never lacking, Jaya was often unavailable in person when her party was in the opposition.
While political inheritance could be a contributing factor to the contrasting styles, internal squabbles in the AIADMK could have also been a deterrent for the party. With the dual power centres still in place, the debate on whose shirt needs to be torn and hair dishevelled might turn out to be long and even a never-ending one. So is the Chinamma factor whose team keeps sending out press releases just about when the AIADMK cadre begins to believe that VK Sasikala has probably decided to call it a day.
There are many top rung leaders in the party who are still supporting me
Successful political life is all about projecting the right image and, while a smile could bring about peace in the world, it neither helps a healthy democracy nor an effective opposition party leader. It is about time the one of the largest parties in the state makes its presence felt on the street, along with the people who have voted them to power several times in the past.
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