There is an uneasy calm prevailing in the AIADMK ahead of the crucial meeting of its seniors tomorrow in Chennai.

The meeting may possibly see a showdown between the two men at the top of the party: Edappadi Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam.

The meeting itself has been necessitated following murmurs from a few leaders who are demanding that the party and the state be headed by the same person. In other words, they want Edappadi Palaniswami to take control.

It all started with the AIADMK's Madurai strongman MLA VV Rajan Chellappa pitching for a single leader to steer the party. Other leaders soon began echoing the same sentiment.

Following this, the AIADMK leaders have decided to convene a meeting with party seniors, including ministers, district secretaries, MPs and MLAs on June 12. The seniors have issued a gag order restraining party members from airing their views in public. In a press release, Panneerselvam and Palaniswami, the twin heads of the party, said, “Whoever wishes to express their views for the welfare of AIADMK should utilise opportunities in party fora like the general and executive councils, besides consultative sessions.” They cautioned party members that their utterances on intra-party affairs may throw an opportunity for the opposition to target the AIADMK and hence, must avoid it.

The arrangement as of now in the AIADMK is split between Palaniswami and Panneerselvam. The party coordinator is O Panneerselvam and joint coordinator is Palaniswami.

At the state level, Palaniswami is the chief minister, while Panneerselvam is his deputy.

If rumour mills are to be believed, Palaniswami and Panneerselvam no longer see eye to eye. Their relationship, at any rate, was built on convenience. They had to willy-nilly remain together if the party had to remain as a single unit and not get played into the hands of rivals such as MK Stalin or TTV Dhinakaran.

So K Palaniswami (fondly known as EPS) and Panneerselvam, despite their marked differences and vaulting ambitions, patched up and jointly cosied up to the BJP so that the AIADMK and its government is not disturbed at the state.

But the election campaign brought too much strain on the party. Panneerselvam's son Raveendranath was in the fray in Theni during the Lok Sabha election. The general allegation has been that O Panneerselvam (also known as OPS) chose to concentrate on his son's constituency alone, and did not campaign with any amount of seriousness anywhere else.

The fact that Raveendranath was the sole NDA candidate to triumph in the state OPS hit the limelight. He also lobbied intensely with the BJP for a ministerial berth for his son in the NDA government. But as it happened, his efforts were nixed by the AIADMK  itself. It grassed the BJP offer saying that it would not want a first-timer to become a minister straightaway.

Since then the OPS-EPS feud has intensified.  

After Rajan Chellapa, who is seen as an OPS supporter, spoke in favour of a single supremo in the party,  RT Ramachandran, a senior AIADMK functionary representing Kunnam Assembly segment, in a video, said, "My appeal is for a unitary leadership and he should be strong and unselfish."

Stating that party founder MG Ramachandran and his successor J Jayalalithaa were "selfless and treated only the party as their family", he said both the leaders had "avoided" their respective families while nurturing and guarding the organisation. "Whoever tries to threaten or divide the party for their family will be viewed as yet another Sasikala by the AIADMK workers," he added.

Ramachandran's message was clearly aimed at OPS. The reference to family leaves no one in any kind of doubt. The fight between the two leaders has also reached the social media platforms. Both the camps have been slyly putting out posts against one another.

But there are a few sane heads who want OPS and EPS to bury the hatchet and focus on the task at hand. A senior leader of the AIADMK has been quoted as saying, "It is common for a large party like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to witness differences of opinion. In fact, we are far better when compared to other parties. All issues will be amicably sorted out during the June 12 meet. We are sure OPS and EPS will stand united."

In the event, there is also a belief that the expected showdown may not happen, as the two leaders know any precipitous move from them at this stage will only damage the party's prospects in the long run.

But with Tamil Nadu politics, one never rules out any kind of drama.