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AIADMK merger: Panneerselvam becomes deputy CM in Palaniswami govt

AIADMK factions led by chief minister K Palaniswami and rebel leader O Panneerselvam came together on Monday after a bitter split about six months ago.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2017 16:37 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times, Chennai
AIADMK,AIADMK merger,J Jayalalithaa
Tamil Nadu CM K Palaniswami (R) and O Panneerselvam exchange greetings following the merger of their factions in Chennai on Monday. (PTI)

Two factions of Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK merged on Monday with the induction of O Panneerselvam as the deputy chief minister but a third group threatened to pull down the government in the southern state. (Highlights)

The political turmoil that has roiled Tamil Nadu after chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s death in December doesn’t seem to have ended with chief minister Edapaddi Palanisami and his predecessor Panneerselvam shaking hands at the party headquarters in the afternoon in front of hundreds of cheering workers.

“No one can separate us, we are all children of Amma,” declared Panneerselvam, invoking Jayalalithaa.

He may have celebrated too early.

Like he and Palanisami, a group of 18 MLAs, loyal to sacked deputy general secretary of the party TTV Dinakaran, went to Jayalalithaa’s memorial in the night.

They “meditated” for 15 minutes and trashed the merger.

Sources said Dinakaran would on Tuesday meet governor C Vidyasagar Rao at 10am with his group and make their opposition to the ruling faction known, posing a potential risk to the government.

Dinakaran is the nephew of party general secretary VK Sasikala whose ouster from the AIADMK looks likely after the merger -- the faction led by Panneerselvam wanted her out.

In Delhi, there was talk of the AIADMK, which has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, joining the ruling National Democratic Alliance.

The move will take the ruling coalition’s strength in the Upper House, where it is in a minority, to 98. Even with the Dravidian party on its side, the NDA won’t have the majority but an improved tally will allow it more manoeuvring space.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose BJP is said to have pushed the two factions to come together, hailed the merger.

“I congratulate Thiru O Panneerselvam & others who took oath today. I hope Tamil Nadu scales newer heights of progress in the years to come,” he tweeted.

But for that to happen, things have to fall in place in Tamil Nadu.

The AIADMK has 134 MLAs in the 233-member House – a seat is lying vacant after the death of Jayalaithaa. The majority mark is down to 117 but if Dinakaran comes good on his threat of “activating sleeper cells within the AIADMK”, the government could be in danger.

If the 18 MLAs go against it, the strength of the ruling group would be reduced to 116. Dinakaran claims to have the support of 20 MLAs. Two more rebels mean more trouble for the ruling side.

The Opposition DMK has already announced it would move a no-confidence motion as “this was not a government that people had voted for”.

Dinakaran has threatened that the government will fall if Sasikala, who is serving time in a corruption case, were to be removed from the party.

On Monday, too, the merger that has been in the works for weeks was stuck over a demand for a written declaration ousting Sasikala.

A last-minute intervention by RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy ironed out the differences, sources said. The RSS is ideological parent of the BJP.

Under the new arrangement, the 66-year Panneerselvam, who revolted against Sasikala in February after being pushed out as the chief minister, will hold housing and finance portfolios. Supporter K Pandiarajan will be the minister for Tamil language and culture.

Panneerselvam will also run the AIADMK as the head of an 11-member panel that will oversee party affairs. Palanisami is the co-coordinator of the panel.

Neither leader mentioned Sasikala but senior AIADMK leader R Vaithialingam said an emergency general council meeting would be called soon to remove her from the post of general secretary.

First Published: Aug 21, 2017 16:24 IST