Sasikala must go: Panneerselvam’s firm stand makes AIADMK merger talks tentative
The merger move came after an FIR was filed against Dinakaran, Sasikala’s nephew, for allegedly trying to bribe officials of election commission, which will decide which of the two factions would get the two-leaves symbol of the original AIADMK.india Updated: Apr 29, 2017 07:28 IST
Reconciliation of the two AIADMK factions in Tamil Nadu appeared tentative on Tuesday as former chief minister O Panneerselvam stuck to his demand for the ouster of the ruling group’s jailed leader, VK Sasikala, and her influential clan. (Highlights)
Efforts to reunite the two warring factions began after ruling AIADMK (Amma) group’s deputy general secretary TTV Dinakaran faced arrest over a bribery charge.
A nine-member team of the AIADMK (Amma) leaders has been formed to negotiate with the Panneerselvam camp to draw up a merger formula, party sources said.
But the Panneerselvam camp set conditions for talks — Sasikala has to step down as general secretary, members her family must be divested of all posts and power in the party, and a probe into the death of J Jayalalithaa, the former chief minister.
Panneerselvam stayed put in his native village, Theni, and reaffirmed the stand he took during his revolt against the Sasikala-led group that dominated the AIADMK after Jayalalithaa’s death last December.
He said party elections declaring Sasikala as the general secretary must be declared illegal.
“Sasikala and her family members were shown the door by Jayalalithaa and they came in through the backdoor and gained control of the party, and the government,” he said.
Unless the Sasikala clan is ousted, there can be no merger of the two factions, he declared.
OPS, as he is known, has his eyes set on the state’s top post, saying there should be a new face of governance in the state.
The majority of the state’s ministers met on Monday night and resolved to begin merger talks in the overall interest of the party — especially to boost its prospects in the civic polls.
Finance minister D Jayakumar said: “We welcome OPS’s statement on joining hands. We also want the two sides to come together.”
Deputy general secretary Dinakaran, who was meeting lawyers to deal with a Delhi Police FIR that named him as a co-accused in a bribery case, is unhappy with the conditions set by the rival camp.
A legislator and Dinakaran loyalist said the ministers met without his knowledge.
“Sasikala must continue as general secretary and TTV as deputy general secretary,” he said.
Another AIADMK (Amma) functionary, Vaidyaselvan, made it clear that if the other side remained rigid, talks are bound to fail.
The merger move came after the Delhi Police filed an FIR against Dinakaran, who is a nephew of Sasikala, on Sunday for allegedly trying to bribe officials of election commission, which will decide which of the two factions would get the two-leaves symbol of the original AIADMK.
Finance and fisheries minister D Jayakumar and power minister P Thangamani are among those tasked by chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami to hold talks barely two months after the split.
All ministers and party MLAs have been summoned to Chennai.
Officially, both sides say they are in favour of a merger to guard the government and party’s interests. But, the merger will hinge on two factors — who will head the unified party and who the chief minister would be.
Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambidurai, who steered discussions within the Palaniswami camp, was also speaking to former education minister M Foi Pandiarajan, the only minister to jump ship when Palaniswami replaced Panneerselvam as the chief minister.
There is a growing anger against Sasikala, who is serving a four-year jail term in a corruption case, and her family’s stranglehold of the party after the death of Jayalalithaa.
She named Dinakaran her deputy before she was jailed.
Jayalaithaa’s death on December 5 triggered a bitter factional fight that ended with the ruling party splitting into AIADMK (Amma) and AIADMK Puratchi Thalavi Amma.