Differences within OPS faction delays AIADMK merger

RSTV Bureau

The much-anticipated merger of the two factions of AIADMK in Tamil Nadu was put on hold on Friday night after divisions in the faction led by former chief minister O. Panneerselvam delayed the talks.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam leaves after attending the party's MLA's meeting, AIADMK General Secretary V K Sasikala elected as a AIADMK Legislative party leader, set to become Tamil Nadu CM, at Party's Headquarters in Chennai on 05 February 2017.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam leaves after attending the party’s MLA’s meeting, AIADMK General Secretary V K Sasikala elected as an AIADMK Legislative party leader, set to become Tamil Nadu CM, at Party’s Headquarters in Chennai on 05 February 2017.

Senior leaders of the OPS faction – KP Munusamy, V Maitreyan, Manoj Pandian and ‘Natham’ Viswanathan argued that people and cadre are with them and that there was no need for a unification of AIADMK.

Party sources indicated that there were “some ticklish issues” that were to be addressed by both groups.

Security was stepped up on Friday evening at Jayalalithaa’s mausoleum at Marina Beach, as several MLAs converged at the spot expecting a merger announcement. The burial complex was also decorated and the party office was brightly lit. But it soon became apparent that several hurdles still remained.

Chennai: AIADMK senior leader and highways minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (second from right) along with party seniors.  Photo - PTI

Chennai: AIADMK senior leader and highways minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (second from right) along with party seniors.
Photo – PTI

A scheduled late night press meet by Panneerselvam was deferred.

The merger talks between AIADMK factions resurfaced days after sidelined AIADMK (Amma) leader TTV Dhinakaran held a rally in Madurai in which about 20 legislators and six MPs participated. Dhinakaran and his loyalists had intended to showcase their strength but failed to garner much support.

File photo: AIADMK leader TTV Dinakaran arriving to appear before Delhi police for questioning in connection with an alleged attempt to bribe an EC official for retaining the two leaves party symbol, at the Crime Branch office at Chanakyapuri in  New Delhi on Saturday.

File photo: AIADMK leader TTV Dinakaran arriving to appear before Delhi police for questioning in connection with an alleged attempt to bribe an EC official for retaining the two leaves party symbol, at the Crime Branch office at Chanakyapuri in New Delhi on Saturday.

AIADMK split withing two months of Jayalalithaa’s death when Panneerselvam rebelled and accused VK Sasikala of forcing him to resign from the post of interim chief minister. Soon Jayalalithaa’s aide, VK Sasikala took over as the party chief and was pipped to be CM.

Panneerselvam’s faction was expelled and Sasikala was found guilty by the Supreme Court and convicted in a disproportionate assets case. Palaniswami was made CM of the ruling AIADMK (Amma) faction of the party with about 122 MLAs in the 234 member assembly.

Palaniswami and his cabinet colleagues took a stand against Dhinakaran in April 2017 for the first time after the RK Nagar by-poll was canceled. Further hardening the stand against Dhinakaran, an August 10 meeting chaired by Palaniswami said his appointment went against party laws, setting the stage for a formal merger.

Following it up, the government announced an inquiry into Jayalalithaa’s death and declared that Amma’s Poes Garden residence will be taken over and turned into a memorial. By conceding to these demands of the Panneerselvam camp, the process of unification got a fresh impetus.

(With inputs from PTI)