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AIADMK factions fail to arrive at consensus, merger talks to continue

The BJP sees an opportunity in the AIADMK bitter internal battle and subdued activities of former chief minister K Karunanidhi’s DMK to capture power in Tamil Nadu.

india Updated: Aug 18, 2017 21:59 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times, Chennai
AIADMK,AIADMK merger,Tamil Nadu
File photo of Tamil Nadu chief minister EK Palaniswami at the Jaya memorial in February after his swearing-in ceremony in Chennai. (PTI)

The AIADMK factions seemed to inch closer to a merger on Friday after chief minister Edappadi Palanisami accepted most of the rebel camp’s demands, including a judicial investigation into the death of party supremo J Jayalalithaa last December.

However, by Friday night, no announcement was forthcoming as the two sides were yet to arive at a consensus.

Earlier in the evening, security was stepped up at the Jaya memorial on Chennai’s Marina beach, triggering speculation that the announcement might take place there. This was the spot from where O Panneerselvam started the revolt against Jayalalithaa’s long-time friend VK Sasikala on February 7 that split the party.

Palaniswami and his predecessor, rebel leader O Panneerselvam, were expected to meet to formalise a unification deal that will include a power-sharing formula.

Speculation swirled about the merger after ministers Velumani and Thangamani called on former chief minister Panneerselvam, popularly known as OPS, who ruled the state till February after Jayalalithaa’s death.

This is the first time in weeks that ministers from the ruling faction visited OPS.

The OPS camp held a meeting in the evening and the leader agreed to the merger “provided the deal was fruitful to his followers”.

According to the formula, he was to get an important party post and two of his supporters will become ministers. He was also likely to be made leader of a united AIADMK.

The fast-paced developments were happening ahead of BJP president Amit Shah’s visit to Tamil Nadu.

His tour is significant as the BJP is trying to expand its footprints in the southern state where the party has a negligible presence.

The BJP sees an opportunity in the AIADMK bitter internal battle and subdued activities of former chief minister K Karunanidhi’s DMK to capture power in a state that is seen as the party’s final frontier.

There have been allegations that the AIADMK merger moves were orchestrated by the BJP. The parties deny the charge.

Away from the action in Chennai, another power brainstorming happened on Friday at Parapparana Agrahara jail in Benguluru, where AIADMK interim chief and long-time Jayalalithaa aide VK Sasikala is serving a four-year sentence for corruption.

The AIADMK split after Sasikala took over the reins of the party, removed Panneerselvam from the chief minister’s post, handpicked Palaniswami as his replacement this February, and appointed nephew TTV Dinakaran as her deputy before going to jail.

Among the merger conditions of the OPS camp, removal of Sasikala and her family from the party and government was one of the foremost. The ruling faction had sacked Dinakaran last week in a reconciliatory signal to the rival group.

He and aunt Sasikala, who celebrated her 62nd birthday on Friday, met in the jail.

“I am not going to reveal my strategies on television … We have sleeper cells that will become active at an appropriate time,” Dinakran told reporters in the Karnataka capital.

About 19 MLAs owing allegiance to Sasikala met him at a private hotel in Chennai later in the day.

Tamil Nadu politics went into an overdrive after chief minister Palaniswami said on Thursday a retired high court judge will investigate the circumstances and prolonged hospitalization of Jayalalithaa before her death.

The death probe was a key demand of the OPS camp. There have been allegations that Sasikala didn’t allow party leaders to meet Jayalalithaa during her treatment in a private hospital in Chennai.

Besides, Palaniswami announced that Jayalalithaa’s sprawling Poes Garden bungalow will be converted into a museum and memorial.

Police took control of the state’s power address — Veda Nilayam, 81, Poes Garden in Chennai — after the chief minister’s announcement.

Known as the party’s backroom operator when Jayalalithaa was alive, Sasikala and her family have been staying in the 24,000-square-feet bungalow that the party supremo and her mother, Sandhya, bought in 1967.

Before she went to jail, Sasikala appointed private security to guard the property. No one was allowed in, barring domestic helps.

First Published: Aug 18, 2017 19:26 IST