On Monday night many senior Tamil Nadu Ministers went into a huddle in Chennai amid reports about coming together of rival AIADMK factions led by TTV Dhinakaran and O Panneerselvam. The development happened on a day when the Delhi Police booked AIADMK (Amma) leader TTV Dhinakaran for allegedly trying to bribe an Election Commission official in a failed bid to obtain the coveted “two-leaves” the party symbol for his faction. Lately, in the month of February, Edappadi Palanisamy had taken the oath as the CM of Tamil Nadu after facing many political issues.
Emerging from more than an hour-and-half-long meeting at the residence of Electricity Minister K Thangamani late night, Finance Minister D.Jayakumar said modalities were being worked out to pave the way for the merger of the two factions. A 10-member team led by the Chief Minister Palaniswamy is likely to meet Panneerselvam to hold talks, said the report from NDTV. Earlier in the day, Panneerselvam, who was a former Chief Minister of the state, had expressed confidence that the Dhinakaran faction leaders would approach him for the merger talks.
“If approached, we are ready to sit and talk, and I have faith that the leaders will come for talks,” he told the reporters at the airport. “Given the opinion, modalities to strengthen the party and to run it with unity were discussed,” Jayakumar told the reporters, briefing them about the meeting which was attended by most of the ministers of E K Palanisamy government.
Earlier on Monday, speculations swirled about a possible pact between Palanisamy and Panneerselvam under which both VK Sasikala, the jailed AIADMK general secretary and Dhinakaran, her nephew, and deputy, would be expelled. Unconfirmed reports had it under the arrangement Palanisamy would continue as Chief Minister while Panneerselvam would occupy the coveted post of AIADMK general secretary, which was held by J Jayalalithaa until her death last December. However, Panneerselvam had earlier in the day told the reporters that nobody had approached him with such a proposal so far.
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When asked about the speculation in political circles that Sasikala, who is serving a prison term in connection with a disproportionate assets case in which Jayalalithaa was also an accused, was preparing to quit as the general secretary, Jayakumar said, “There is no such thing.” Sasikala was lately found guilty of corruption by the Supreme Court.
Law Minister C V Shanmugam named it as “a lie.” Shanmugam said as Dhinakaran was in Bengaluru for a meeting with Sasikala, the merger issue would be discussed on his return here. On Panneerselvam’s stand that Sasikala’s family should not be a part of the party, Jayakumar evaded a direct answer and said, “The decision of the last party cadre is the decision of the party and all of us.”
He said, “We would get the two leaves symbol for sure as it is the desire of all the workers of the party.” The election symbol is seen as a part of Jayalalithaa’s enduring legacy. The Election Commission had frozen the two leaves symbol after both Panneerselvam and Sasikala-Dhinakaran factions had staked claim to it ahead of the now countermanded April 12 by-election to RK Nagar assembly constituency.
Jayakumar also said that the submission of affidavits of district-level party workers to the Election Commission in the symbol dispute was discussed at the meeting. On the possibility of meeting Panneerselvam to take forward the merger proposal, he said as quoted “For everything, there is a time.”
When a reporter pointed out that Panneerselvam had been demanding a probe into the circumstances surrounding the death of Jayalalithaa, and if it was to be made a condition for the merger, he shot back and asked: “Did Panneerselvam spell out this as a condition?”
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Senior Minister and the heavy weight of the party in the western area, S P Velumani stated: “For sure we will be united, and retrieve the two leaves symbol.” “Those who exited Panneerselvam and his followers were also a part of our family. It is like a fight between the two brothers. Together we will get back the two leaves symbol,” he said.
There was reportedly unease in Tamil Nadu’s ruling party ever since the Income Tax officials raided Health Minister Vijaya Bhaskar’s premises and seized evidence of bribing voters for the bypoll to R K Nagar assembly seat. The poll, scheduled for April 12, was countermanded by the Election Commission on April 9 amid allegations of rampant inducement and bribing of voters.