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AIADMK factions merge finally, Panneerselvam is deputy CM

LiveMint logoLiveMint 21-08-2017 Dharani Thangavelu

Chennai: After several failed attempts, the much-awaited merger of the two warring factions of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) was announced on Monday afternoon. The union wasn’t without the drama that has characterized events of the past several months.

At the last minute, former chief minister O. Panneerselvam and chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami (the OPS and the EPS who have hogged headline space for weeks) disagreed over the ouster of the party general secretary V.K. Sasikala before arriving at a compromise.

The compromise would be her ouster by the party’s general council.

Avadi Kumar, spokesperson of the EPS faction said: “We cannot oust Sasikala immediately as she was appointed by the general council of the AIADMK.”

ALSO READ: AIADMK merger: A timeline of revolts

Panneerselvam, who was sworn in as the deputy chief minister, will also hold the finance portfolio. K Pandiarajan was given the Tamil official language and Tamil culture portfolio. Both took charge after governor C. Vidyasagar Rao officiated the oath of office.

Panneerselvam while announcing the merger said, “No one can separate us. We are fulfilling the dreams of crores of cadres and wishes of Amma (Jayalalithaa).”

EPS said, “Our first priority will be to retrieve the two leaves symbol. We will fulfil all the promises made by Amma.”

After the merger, AIADMK leader R. Vaithilingam said the party will take “all efforts to oust Sasikala and the general council will decide on that.”

But handlooms and textile minister O.S. Manian said that there was “no agenda in today’s meeting regarding Sasikala or the general secretary post. General council (of AIADMK) can only decide on the general secretary (appointment or expulsion).” He said Vaithilingam had made the comment in his personal capacity.

Sasikala’s status in the party is not the only area of uncertainty the party will have to sort out. The AIADMK’s party symbol and name lies frozen with the Election Commission (EC).

Even as EPS and OPS sealed the deal, 18 AIADMK legislators—a sufficient number to topple the Palaniswami government that is surviving on a wafer thin majority— met expelled deputy general secretary and Sasikala’s nephew T.T.V. Dhinakaran. This could spell trouble for the government.

The OPS faction has 10 MLAs in the 234-member assembly (reduced to 233 after the death of former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa). The united AIADMK has 134 members, but with 20 signing up with Dhinakaran last week, despite the merger, the party will now have only 114 members, three short of majority.

The MLAs with allegiance to Dhinakaran will meet the governor on Tuesday morning, demanding the removal of Palaniswami.

Much will depend on what the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which has 89 legislators in the house, decides to do.

EPS later said an 11-member committee would be formed to guide the party. Panneerselvam will be the convener and Palaniswami the co-convener of the AIADMK. Senior party leader K.P. Munusamy was appointed deputy co-convener.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated OPS and the others who took oath. “I hope Tamil Nadu scales newer heights of progress in the years to come,” he tweeted

“Centre assures all possible support to CM Thiru Edappadi K. Palaniswami & Dy CM Thiru O Panneerselvam for the growth of TN.”

Analysts pointed to the procedural and political challenges that lay ahead.

“On the organizational front, Panneerselvam and Palaniswami can move the EC to de-freeze the symbol but will it suffice is the question,” said N. Sathiya Moorthy, director of the Chennai chapter of the think tank Observer Research Foundation.

“Panneerselvam went to the EC saying that Sasikala was not elected by the primary members (of the party) but only by the general council. And, both factions have taken container-loads of attestations by the primary members,” added Sathiya Moorthy. He said the party by-law authorizes “only the general secretary to form the committees, including the day’s coordination committee.”

M.K. Stalin, leader of opposition and DMK’s working president criticized both OPS and EPS, calling them the “best actors”. “Both former and present CM, have fallen down on BJP’s feet. Is the fight for power, the Dharma Yuddham?” asked Stalin.

Sasikala is in a Bengaluru jail after being convicted in a disproportionate assets case.

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