There has been no headway in merger talks between the two warring AIADMK factions in Tamil Nadu, where political situation remains uncertain.
On Monday, the group led by former chief minister O Panneerselvam reiterated its twin demands – ouster of VK Sasikala and TTV Dinakaran and probe into CM J Jayalalithaa’s death – as preconditions for talks.
The rival camp led by chief minister Edapaddi Palaniswami, a Sasikala loyalist, was speaking in different voices.
The ruling party in the southern state split into Sasikala-led AIADMK (Amma) and Panneerselvam’s AIADMK Puratchi Thalavi Amma after the death of party founder Jayalalithaa in December.
Sasikala, a close aide of Jayalalithaa, is serving a four-year jail term in a corruption case. Her nephew, Dinakaran, looks after the ruling party as its deputy secretary.
Addressing mediapersons after a series of meetings on Monday, senior Panneerselvam faction leader and Rajya Sabha member V Maitreyan said Sasikala and Dinakaran should be expelled from the party, which should be freed from the clutches of the “Mannargudi mafia”.
“Mannargudi mafia” is a derisive reference to Sasikala’s hometown and the alleged corrupt dealings of her family that enjoyed immense clout in early days of Jayalalithaa’s rule.
“We had heard that the EPS camp had formed a seven-member committee and so did we. There are confusing statements emanating from the EPS camp,” Maitreyan said, referring to the faction led by the chief minister.
EV Shanmugam, a senior leader from the EPS camp, said the committee was yet to be formed. “The CM has just come from Delhi and is yet to constitute a committee for talks,” he said.
Another senior Panneerselvam camp leader also expressed surprise over different statements coming from the other side.
KP Munuswamy told media that “as people did not believe that Jayalalithaa died a natural death, it was imperative that a thorough probe be carried out into all circumstances revolving around her death”.
Unless the two conditions were met, talks won’t start, Munuswamy said.
Jayalalithaa died in a Chennai hospital on December 5 after a mysterious illness. During her 75-day stay at the hospital, medical bulletins offered little information about what ailed the popular leader.
The Panneerselvam camp is playing hard ball and it doesn’t seem to buy the EPS camp’s argument that that Dinakaran and Sasikala had been ousted.
A recent write-up in the AIADMK (Amma) mouthpiece Namadhu MGR amplified the doubts, as the article said Sasikala and Dinakaran would work together to safeguard and take the AIADMK forward.
Munuswamy, too, questioned the timings of the piece which indicated that the Sasikala-Dinakaran duo was definitely in the picture.
The different voices showed the ruling faction was being guided by “some outside forces”, Munuswamy said, without elaborating further.
With two sides far from resolving their differences, Tamil Nadu is battling political uncertainty for almost nine months now, barring a brief period of lull after Palaniswami’s swearing-in.
He was sworn in after the Supreme Court cut short Sasikala’s bid to be the chief minister and AIADMK leader who had crushed Panneerslevam’s rebellion against her. The country’s top court ordered Sasikala in jail, finding her guilty of corruption.
It was another corruption case – this time against Dinakaran -- that saw Panneerslevam and his camp demand ouster of Sasikala and her nephew.
A week ago, a Dinakaran, who also faces charges of money laundering, was booked for allegedly trying to bribe election commission officials to get the AIADMK election symbol of two leaves, frozen by the poll panel following the split in the party.