AIADMK merger a step closer after OPS meets PM Modi
Panneerselvam, who leads the Puratchi Thalaivi Amma faction, had flown to New Delhi on Saturday with Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, the leader of the Amma faction. However, Panneerselvam was not given an appointment to meet either Modi or BJP chief Amit Shah over the weekend.
By giving an appointment only to Palaniswami, the BJP brass sent a strong a message to Panneerselvam, who has delayed the merger in the last few months by putting impossible conditions like the complete exclusion of VK Sasikala's clan from the party, and a CBI inquiry into the death of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
Denied an appointment, Panneerselvam went to Shirdi for a darshan of Sai Baba on Sunday, and returned to New Delhi only on Sunday night after getting a message to meet Modi at his residence.
Panneerselvam told reporters that he discussed the political situation in Tamil Nadu with the Prime Minister, as well as the functioning of the Palaniswami government. He did not elaborate, but the reference was the alleged 'lack of governance', over which his faction had even planned an agitation last month.
Efforts to placate
The BJP is of the view that the challenge posed by expelled deputy general secretary TTV Dinakaran can be effectively thwarted only if the two groups come together.
To placate Panneerselvam, Palaniswami even declared as illegal Dinakaran's appointment as deputy general secretary. He was appointed to the position by current interim general secretary Sasikala, his aunt.
Even so, Panneerselvam gave it only a grudging welcome by saying that the other side had come half way.
When Sasikala was elevated to AIADMK general secretary after Jayalalithaa's death, Panneerselvam himself was a party to. However, after breaking away from the party, he began questioning the move, and even filed an affidavit with the Election Commission. In an additional affidavit filed on Saturday, Panneerselvam's aide and lawyer Manoj Pandian drew the EC's attention to the action taken by the EPS group terming the appointment of Dinakaran as 'illegal'.
There was no need for this, as the EC had anyway refused to take cognisance of Dinakaran, and entertained only pleas filed on behalf of Sasikala.
What happens next
Now that Panneerselvam has been told merge with the EPS group, the nitty gritty still has to be worked out. The chief question is whether OPS will be inducted into the EPS cabinet as Deputy CM, or whether he will be entrusted with running the party as head of a seven-member committee.
Sorting this matter out may take a few days.
Post-merger, the party has to call the general council to elect a new set of office-bearers. Only then will the appointment of Sasikala as general secretary get superseded.
But while the EPS and OPS factions get ready to merge, Dinakaran has gone to Madurai to hold his first public meeting and show his strength. This is the second overt step he has taken after appointing some 60 party men, including 20 MLAs, to various posts..
He maintains that Palaniswami owes his position to Sasikala. Likewise, he maintains that since he was appointed deputy general secretary by his jailed aunt, she alone can remove him.
Before leaving for Madurai, he told reporters that he would let this government survive only so long as it follows in the footsteps of Jayalalithaa.
The message is clear: Palaniswami can go the BJP way, at his own peril.