Tamil Nadu minister Edappadi K Palaniswami was nominated the AIADMK legislature party leader and caretaker chief minister O Panneerselvam was expelled from the primary membership of the ruling party on Tuesday. (LIVE UPDATES)
The move came shortly after the Supreme Court convicted VK Sasikala, AIADMK general secretary and leader of the legislature party, in a 21-year-old assets case.
Sasikala has been locked in a bitter turf war with Panneerselvam, who made a dramatic volte-face last week to claim that he was forced to resign as chief minister by a section of party legislators. He had earlier resigned to make way for Sasikala, who was vying for the state’s top job.
Apart from Panneerselvam, Sasikala also sacked 19 leaders. All of them were dismissed on charges of acting against the AIADMK’s policies and principles.
Those sacked included school education minister K Pandiarajan and former ministers C Ponnaiyan, PH Pandian, Natham R Viswanathan, KP Munusamy and P Mohan
Sasikala’s conviction meant that she would have to stay four years in jail and could not contest elections for another six years. The axe on Panneerselvam, who thwarted Sasikala in the AIADMK succession war after Jayalalithaa’s death, is being viewed as an attempt to reinstate one of her loyalists in charge of the party.
Shortly before the AIADMK move, Panneerselvam harped on unity and said: “Let us forget the differences, temporary fight and come together to defeat the Opposition waiting to split the AIADMK.”
And after his expulsion, he said: “Amma’s atma is still around us and will guide us on the right path...Amma’s good governance and people welfare programmes will continue and follow the path of Amma.”
He told people to stay calm and said: “We will form a government without the help of any other party.”
But the indications were clear. In the AIADMK power struggle, Palaniswami is now being viewed as a front-runner for the CM post. Palanisami, a powerful leader from Salem, has contested and won four elections. He is the minister for highways and ports.
Palaniswami urged Tamil Nadu governor Vidayasagar Rao to let him form the government. In a letter to Rao, the AIADMK leader said: “I may be given appointment to submit the list of AIADMK MLAs supporting me as Leader of the AIADMK Legislature Party... I may be invited to form the cabinet.”
But Panneerselvam’s camp rejected the appointment of Sasikala loyalist Palaniswami. “Nobody has the authority to elect anybody,” said Pandiarajan, a leader considered close to Panneerselvam.
(With agency inputs)