After the death of former AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa in December 2016, and his fortuitous climb up the political ladder, EPS, as he is popularly known, has rarely looked back – nor down.
With the DMK’s victory in the assembly election, an unfazed Palaniswami is likely to focus his energies on another battle – to take control of the AIADMK. While he failed to defeat DMK president M K Stalin in the race for chief ministership, EPS may well manage to checkmate more dangerous foes like his former benefactor and Jayalalithaa’s close aide, V K Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dhinakran.
By helping his party win close to 70 seats in the 234-strong Tamil Nadu assembly, EPS has risen in stature within the AIADMK. With the AMMK’s poor showing in the south and its leader Dhinakaran’s defeat in his Kovilpatti constituency, EPS’s stock has risen.
But before that, EPS has to deal with a challenger within the party. Sharing the AIADMK reins with party coordinator O Panneerselvam, while he himself is the co-coordinator, would not be the best arrangement anymore. The stage is set for a fight to rid the dual leadership structure. But before that, there is the question of who would be the leader of the opposition in the legislative assembly – EPS or OPS.
Considering that much of AIADMK’s victories were in EPS’s western turf, getting MLAs to support his claim may no be difficult. Moreover, OPS has had a tough fight in Bodinayakanur, while EPS maintained an impressive margin early on the counting day.
Even his rivals agree that EPS’s four-year stint as CM earned him public goodwill. He was a quick learner, say associates.
The way he whisked the ₹2,354-crore Ola Electric Mobility deal from right under Karnataka’s nose in December last year for a Hosur plant and signed a pact with Tata Electronics for a ₹4,684-crore mobile components manufacturing facility in Krishnagiri in February earned him laurels.
In more than three decades, the gounderjaggery farmer has climbed the political ladder to leave a mark. EPS as CM shone. Now he has to be the undisputed leader of the AIADMK.