Trouble-hit AIADMK eyes merger of warring factions, sidelines Sasikala and her kin

AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala arrives at the special court in Bengaluru to surrender after she being convicted in a disproportionate assets case on February 15, 2017.(PTI)
AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala arrives at the special court in Bengaluru to surrender after she being convicted in a disproportionate assets case on February 15, 2017.(PTI)
Updated on Apr 29, 2017 07:28 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chennai | ByKV Lakshmana

Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK party on Tuesday distanced itself from jailed general secretary VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dinakaran, brightening prospects of a truce with the O Panneerselvam faction that had rebelled against her leadership.

The decision was “unanimous” and based on the views of all ministers, including chief minister E Palaniswami, legislators, MPs and the people, state minister D Jayakumar said, stressing that a committee will now run the party.

The Sasikala clan will be completely kept away from the party and the government, which should not be controlled by one family, finance and fisheries minister Jayakumar said.

Jayakumar had hinted after a meeting late on Monday night that the two warring factions of the AIADMK will come together, but Panneerselvam appeared adamant on keeping Sasikala at bay before joining forces with CM Palaniswami.

The fast-paced developments in the AIADMK came close on the heels of Delhi Police booking deputy general secretary Dinakaran for allegedly trying to bribe an Election Commission official to get the party’s “two leaves” symbol allotted to his faction.

Pressure was already mounting on Dinakaran to step down after the poll panel cancelled the RK Nagar assembly by-election following a cash-for-vote scandal, and the police action against him made matters worse.

Dinakaran, a nephew of general secretary Sasikala who is serving time in a corruption case, is the party’s RK Nagar candidate.

The seat fell vacant after the death of chief minister J Jayalalithaa on December 5, and the bypoll turned into a battle for her legacy between Sasikala, her aide of almost 30 years, and Panneerselvam, a loyalist.

The AIADMK suffered a vertical split after Jayalalithaa’s death, following which her close aide Sasikala was appointed as the party chief.

However, in February this year, Panneerselvam revolted against Sasikala, alleging that he was forced to make way for her to become chief minister of the state.

Subsequently, some MPs and MLAs joined the Panneerselvam camp even as chief minister Palaniswami, a Sasikala loyalist, survived a confidence vote in the state assembly.

Merger on the cards?

On Tuesday, the Palaniswami faction formed a nine-member committee to negotiate with the Panneerselvam camp and finalise the modalities of the merger.

“The decision to merge was taken to ensure that the party did not break. The party should stand united...and the move to sideline the Sasikala clan was to ensure that the party and the government did not fall into the hands of one family,” Jayakumar said.

The Panneerselvam camp indicated that the move was a welcome development.

O Ponnaian, a senior leader from the faction, said talks will be held “only if both conditions – Sasikala clan’s ouster and probe into Jayalaithaa’s death – are accepted”.

“If OPS comes for negotiations and merger talks tomorrow (Wednesday), we are ready for it,” Jayakumar said, adding that “we will all work together to get back the two leaves symbol”.

The poll panel had frozen the symbol after both Panneerselvam and Sasikala-Dinakaran factions staked claim to it ahead of the now countermanded April 12 by-election to RK Nagar assembly constituency.

(With agency inputs)

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