OPS camp puts AIADMK merger plan on hold

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A merger of the rival factions of the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, which appeared imminent, did not take place as a marathon consultation held by former Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma) leader O. Panneerselvam with supporters on Friday night failed to arrive at a consensus.

Among the reasons cited was the insistence of sections of the AIADMK (PTA) that the AIADMK (Amma) publicly declare that jailed “interim” general secretary V.K. Sasikala stood expelled from the party. There was also talk of the AIADMK (PTA) making a strong case for the allotment of prominent portfolios, apart from respectable positions for its heavyweights in a unified party.

“If the AIADMK (Amma) can adopt a resolution disowning deputy general secretary T.T.V. Dhinakaran, why cannot it do the same for Sasikala too,” asked a frontline leader of the OPS faction. “This should be done regardless of the legality of such a course of action,” he said. “Otherwise, there would be no purpose in running a campaign against Sasikala for all these months”, and his group would be seen to have compromised its position.

Sources said that during the consultation, some of the nine MLAs supporting Mr. Panneerselvam spoke in favour of a merger with the ruling faction.

Since morning, the talk doing the rounds was that Mr. Panneerselvam would come out with a statement on the merger after Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Thursday announced the government’s move to constitute a commission of inquiry, one of the two demands that the AIADMK (PTA) had been raising.

Leaders firm

The “strong stand” taken by leaders, including former Minister K.P. Munusamy, was said to have prompted Mr. Panneerselvam to put off a decision on the merger. Mr. Munusamy was not available for comment.

When the consultation began in the evening, the mausoleum of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on the Marina was decked up with flowers. Police personnel were also mobilised, leading to expectations that Mr. Panneerselvam and Mr. Palaniswami would pay homage to the former Chief Minister, before addressing reporters.

Two wreaths were purchased and kept on a chair near the memorial for the leaders to pay homage. A considerable number of party cadres and district-level functionaries had also assembled at the spot. But, around 9 p.m., it became evident that the event would not take place and the crowd started dispersing.

Earlier in the day, two senior ministers P. Thangamani and S. P. Velumani, met Mr Panneerselvam at a private hospital in Porur where the latter’s mother was admitted for treatment. The “goodwill visit” was expected to yield political dividends later in the day.

However, in the evening while Mr Palaniswami was closeted with his senior cabinet colleagues and party leaders at his official bungalow on Greenways Road, a short distance away, Mr Panneerselvam’s supporters converged at the house that was allotted to him when he was a minister in Jayalalithaa’s cabinet.

Asked for comment, a senior leader of the AIADMK (Amma) said it is not possible to expel Sasikala as it was the general council of the unified party that appointed her. Only through another general council could she be removed, the chances for which are slim. If the AIADMK (PTA) is going to be “inflexible” on this issue, the possibility for the reunion is virtually nil, the leader said.

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