AIADMK merger talks and political crisis in TN: Here's how OPS and EPS factions scrapped since February
The last three months saw a simmering conflict between the Panneerselvam faction (OPS) and EK Palanaswami (EPS) faction. Here is how things unfolded in the last three months.
After former chief minister O Panneerselvam revolted against former AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala in February and was forced to resign, two factions were formed. One was led by Sasikala's loyalists, including Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy, while the other a group comprising of Panneerselvam's supporters. However, after Supreme Court's ruling on the disproportionate assets case which sent Sasikala to a Bengaluru prison, AIADMK (Amma) reigns landed in the lap of the tainted leader's nephew — TTV Dinakaran (also spelled as Dhinakaran).
AIADMK suffered a split, with some MPs and MLAs joining the Panneerselvam camp even as Palaniswamy, a Sasikala loyalist, survived a confidence vote in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. Almost a month and a half after that, the party is witnessing a three-way split with one faction supporting OPS, another backing EPS and the third putting its weight behind Dinakaran, although reports have said that the numbers in his favour are dwindling.
Simmering conflict between the Panneerselvam faction and Palanaswamy faction have dominated the last couple of months. Here's how things have unfolded since February:
Fight for AIADMK symbol; Election Commission cancels R K Nagar bypolls
The Election Commission froze AIADMK's 'two leaves' symbol after the two factions led by Sasikala and Panneerselvam staked claim to it. The bypoll to the R K Nagar Assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu was scheduled for 12 April, but the EC cancelled it, saying the electoral process had been "seriously vitiated" by parties through the use of money power. Dinakaran was the candidate of the Sasikala faction. The seat fell vacant after the death of then chief minister J Jayalalithaa on 5 December.
The panel said both groups shall be known by such names as they may choose to show, if they so desire, linkage with their parent party — AIADMK. Both the groups shall be allotted different symbols from a list of free symbols notified by the EC for the purposes of the current by-election from Radhakrishnan Nagar assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu.
Both the AIADMK factions are desperate for a unity because they realise they will find fighting the next civic body elections tough against the DMK in the absence of the familiar "two leaves" election symbol.
In March, the AIADMK faction led by Panneerselvam met Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi to stake claim to the party symbol of 'two leaves' for the RK Nagar seat by-election. Panneerselvam had said "Amma had always been against the family rule. However, the Sasikala group has again established family rule by nominating (her nephew) Dinakaran."
The Election Commission had reserved its order after hearing day-long arguments from rival AIADMK factions in Tamil Nadu on the allocation of the "two leaves" party symbol, one of the petitioners said. The poll panel has three options: Allot the symbol to Sasikala or to Panneerselvam faction, or in the worst case scenario, freeze the symbol.
Unity efforts gain momentum
Efforts to unite the AIADMK factions picked up speed after Delhi Police filed a case against Dinakaran for trying to bribe the Election Commission to allot his faction the now frozen "two leaves" election symbol.
The crime branch of Delhi Police booked Dinakaran for allegedly trying to bribe an Election Commission official to get the 'two leaves' poll symbol in the by-election to the R K Nagar Assembly seat. He was booked following the arrest of Sukesh Chandrasekhar, a middleman, from a five-star hotel in Delhi on Tuesday. The leader of the Sasikala faction of the ruling party also claimed he did not know Sukesh Chandrasekhar, a middleman arrested by the Delhi police in this matter.
Dinakaran on 12 April denied speculations that some state ministers had revolted against him. He was responding to a query on speculations that some of the AIADMK ministers had revolted against him and wanted him to be removed as the party's deputy general secretary.
Merger talks between factions begin
Sources said it was Panneerselvam who had first sent out signals of a possible rapprochement between the rival factions, a move which was promptly welcomed by the Sasikala camp followers.
Senior Tamil Nadu ministers held urgent consultations on 17 April amid talks of merger of the rival AIADMK factions led by Sasikala/Dinakaran and Panneerselvam. The unscheduled meeting on Monday night, chaired by electricity minister K Thangamani, was underway at his official residence at the Greenways Road. Ministers including health minister C Vijayabaskar, who is under the income tax scanner, were present at the meeting. Palaniswamy did not attend the meet, party sources said.
Sasikala loyalists revolt against Dinakaran
An influential section of Sasikala loyalists led by Palaniswamy on 18 April revolted against the AIADMK general secretary, resolving to "delink" the party and the government from her family, and extending a hand of friendship to the rival Panneerselvam camp.
"There was a consensus to delink the government and the party from Dinakaran and the family he belongs to. This is the view of the basic partymen, district secretaries, MLAs and ministers," finance minister D Jayakumar told reporters after a "consultative" meeting chaired by Palaniswamy and attended by several ministers.
The development came on a day when Panneerselvam made merger talks between the two camps conditional to the ouster of Sasikala and Dinakaran, who is standing in for his jailed aunt as her deputy. According to Panneerselvam, MGR never involved his brother in party affairs when he founded the AIADMK and then ruled Tamil Nadu for a decade until his death in December 1987. He said Jayalalithaa admitted only Sasikala into the party and none of the latter's family.
The Sasikala faction hit back. Palaniswamy said if Panneerselvam placed such conditions, then unity talks cannot proceed further. Sasikala faction legislator Vetrivel questioned how a group of ministers discussed a patch-up without the consent of party Dinakaran, a nephew of Sasikala.
He said in Chennai that the meeting of the ministers was "unofficial" and only those meetings held at the AIADMK office were "official".
Sasikala ousted, committee to run party
Jayakumar announced on 18 April that 20 ministers have decided to oust Sasikala and Dinakaran from the party.He further informed that the decision to oust Sasikala and family was "unanimous" and based on the views of all ministers, including chief minister, MLAs, MPs and the public, reports said.
"A panel will be formed for the day-to-day functioning of AIADMK," the Tamil Nadu minister announced after a meeting that was held at Tamil Nadu chief minister's residence.
With inputs from agencies
The AIADMK factions are desperate for a unity because they realise they will find fighting the next civic body elections tough against the DMK in the absence of the familiar "two leaves" election symbol.
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