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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

AIADMK merger on fast track as Tamil Nadu CM Palanisami ‘removes’ Dinakaran from party post

Truce talks between AIADMK’s warring factions come after months of political drama since J Jayalalithaa’s death in December last year.

india Updated: Aug 10, 2017 23:05 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Tamil Nadu’s ruling  AIADMK party was split into two factions between O Panneerselvam (left) and state chief minister EK Palaniswami (right) after party supremo J Jayalalithaa passed away and in fighting broke out over VK Sasikala succeeding her.
Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK party was split into two factions between O Panneerselvam (left) and state chief minister EK Palaniswami (right) after party supremo J Jayalalithaa passed away and in fighting broke out over VK Sasikala succeeding her.(HT File Photo)

Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK faction sacked on Thursday its deputy general secretary TTV Dinakaran, accelerating a possible merger of the party’s two warring groups.

Chief minister Edappadi Palanisami declared as “improper, unacceptable and invalid” the appointment of Dinakaran to the crucial post by his aunt, jailed party chief VK Sasikala, who was convicted of corruption this February.

Dinakaran and his supporters refused to accept the decision, which was taken at an hour-long meeting between Palanisami, about 30 ministers and senior leaders at the party office.

He warned the chief minister, who was handpicked by Sasikala, of “surgical action” and said the revolt won’t stand because the ruling group had endorsed her as party chief in an affidavit to the Election Commission.

“No one has the right to remove or expel me. Only Sasikala has the power,” he said in Thanjavur.

And in an oblique reference to the BJP, he said: “They are scared because of some outside forces.”

According to sources, the BJP is nudging the two factions to merge and join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre.

The BJP has been wooing the AIADMK for long because of its 50 parliamentarians — 37 in the Lok Sabha and 13 in the Rajya Sabha. The national party is also seeking to expand its footprint in the southern state, where it has negligible presence.

Besides, the infighting in the AIADMK since the death of party supremo J Jayalalithaa last December has created a political vacuum in the state.

For his part, rival faction leader O Panneerselvam refused comments on the merger move.

“We are keenly watching the political situation. Our decision, which will be taken soon, will be reflective of the expectations of the people and the aspirations of the AIADMK supporters,” he told reporters.

The unfolding coup in the ruling group could hasten the unification process, which might happen as early as August 15, according to sources.

The key precondition of Panneerselvam, popular as OPS, is removal of longtime Jayalalithaa aide Sasikala and her family members from party and government positions.

The expulsion of Dinakaran is viewed as a move to placate the rival faction ahead of a possible merger.

An AIADMK statement said: “Dinakaran’s appointment was not done as per rules and the recent appointment of office bearers is null and void.”

It also described the circumstances under which Sasikala was appointed as the general secretary and noted that her appointment was under the scrutiny of the Election Commission.

The unification is likely to end months of bitter power struggle in one of India’s richest states that has seen two chief ministers and a spate of rebellions after the Jayalalithaa’s death.

The merger is crucial for the AIADMK to get back its two leaves election symbol that the poll panel had suspended after the split. Also, a united party will boost its prospects in the upcoming civic polls against a resurgent rival, the DMK, which gained brownie points at an event of its party mouthpiece on Thursday that celluloid superstars Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan attended.

A formula for unification is being worked out. The plan says Palanisami will continue as the chief minister and his sacked predecessor, Panneerselvam, could be made the party’s general secretary. And at least two of his followers may be inducted into the ministry.

However, a decision on the party’s top post will be taken later as Sasikala’s election as general secretary is pending before the Election Commission. If the poll panel rules against her, OPS could be made the party chief. He may also be offered the deputy chief minister’s post.

The other demands of the OPS camp are a CBI probe into Jayalalithaa’s death and withdrawal of affidavits submitted to the Election Commission naming Sasikala as general secretary.

Political analysts said Dinakaran’s threats may not hold as his support base has come down to single figures. About 30 MLAs were in his camp before the revolt.

“The two factions will come together and dance to the BJP tunes, as they want to stay in power. Power is the glue that will keep them together,” said Ramu Manivannan, a professor at Madras University.

Besides, the AIADMK legislators could stick together as none of them want fresh elections.

(with agency inputs)

First Published: Aug 10, 2017 13:06 IST