Sasikala Natarajan
Sasikala NatarajanTwitter/AIADMK Official

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) Legislative Party chief Edappadi Palaniswami may have taken oath as Tamil Nadu's chief minister, but he may have a tough time holding on to the position come February 18, when he has to prove his majority on the floor.

Also read: Sasikala Convicted: AIADMK chief to be treated like any other inmate; here's what her routine will be like

His challenge has grown furthermore as AIADMK presidium chairman E Madhusudanan has removed V K Sasikala from the primary membership of the party — a move that might split the AIADMK in two. Madhusudanan later in the day went on to remove Palaniswami himself from the party, amid questions including if he had the authority to do it.

The expulsions and their validity

It may be mentioned that VK Sasikala — aka Sasikala Natarajan, and Chinnamma to supporters — had expelled Madhusudanan from the primary membership of the party. The question that now arises is whether Madhusudanan has the authority to expel Sasikala. Thing is, he has already sent a communication to the Election Commission about the elevation of Sasikala as the AIADMK's general secretary, succeeding the late J Jayalalithaa or Amma.

If that election was invalid, then the decisions taken by Sasikala after that do not hold. And that means Madhusudanan remains the presidium chairman, and has the authority to expel Sasikala from the AIADMK. He also then has the authority to expel others, and he exercised it by pushing Sasikala's nephews TTV Dinakaran and S Venkatesh out of the party. He removed 13 district secretaries, including Palaniswami, from the party. 

Split on the cards?

Madhusudanan's actions have only widened the rift that started emerging between the Sasikala and the O Panneerselvam camps when the latter was asked to resign so the former could take over as Tamil Nadu's chief minister. With Sasikala in prison, she would have wanted to run the government through her loyalists. However, with her nephews ousted from the party, that looks difficult.

It remains to be seen how the Sasikala camp reacts and how the OPS camp retaliates. If they do ante up their offensives, we could be looking at a vertical split within the party, which the DMK sill probably be hoping for, as it will give them a chance to return to power.