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EPS, OPS & Dinakaran's long tussle ends: Reunited AIADMK gets the 'two leaves symbol'

S Murari | Updated on: 23 November 2017, 21:23 IST

The Election Commission today awarded the frozen ‘two leaves' symbol to the reunited All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS), holding that it has the overwhelming support of the partymen. The ruling enables the party to use the symbol, the flag, and the name.

In doing so, the commission rejected the claim of the rival claimant and rebel AIADMK Amma faction leader TTV Dinakaran who disputed the affidavits filed on behalf of the OPS-EPS group.

The commission went by the precedent in the Samajwadi Party case when it ruled in favour of UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav after he conclusively proved that the majority of the MPs and MLAs were with him and not with his father and challenger Mulayam Singh.

Using the same yardstick, the commission held that the official group of the AIADMK had proved that the majority of party legislators in the Assembly are on its side, against only 20 who are with the Dinakaran faction.

Likewise, 36 out of 39 Lok Sabha members, and almost all the Rajya Sabha members are with the unified AIADMK, the commission ruled.

It also noted that 1,800 out of 2,000 general council members are with the unified party as was evident from their attendance at the last general council meeting held in September, one month after the merger of the OPS and EPS factions

The commission took cognisance of the merger and allowed the earlier petitions filed by the OPS and EPS groups, one in favour of Sasikala and the other against, to be withdrawn.

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisami hailed the ruling as a victory for justice.

Dinakaran, however, said it was strange that the commission froze the symbol when 122 MLAs and the majority of the MPs were with the AIADMK Amma led by his aunt V K Sasikala. Dinakaran blamed it on the fact that this only happened because O Pannerselvam had revolted against her, though he had only a handful of MLAs and MPs with him.

The commission froze the symbol on 22 March on the eve of the Radha Krishna Nagar constituency by-election after Dinarakan threw his hat in the ring as part of his bigger plan to capture power from Edappadi Palaniswami whom Sasikala installed as a puppet chief minister.

Following the widespread distribution of money by Palaniswami and by ministers on his behalf, the election itself was cancelled. However, the power equations changed after the merger of the Pannerselvam and the Edappadi groups.

After the merger, Dinakaran hit back by withdrawing support to the Edappadi government. The Governor, instead of calling on the chief minister to prove his majority on the floor of the Assembly, forwarded the letter of 19 rebel legislators to the Speaker S Dhanapal who promptly disqualified them.

The rebels have challenged their disqualification before the Madras High Court and it has ruled that status quo should be maintained, elections should not be held to seats of the disqualified members declared vacant and a floor test should not be held till the court decides whether the Speaker’s action is legal or not.

The high court has since then directed the Election Commission, on another petition, to hold the long-delayed by-election in RK Nagar before 31 December. The commission’s ruling will clear the decks for the by-election.

After the commission’s ruling, Palanisami said the party would decide on contesting the RK Nagar by-election. Last time, he backed Dinakaran as a candidate of the Amma faction. Now the united AIADMK will be ranged against Dinakaran.

Dinakaran can challenge the commission’s finding. But politically, he will find it difficult to keep his flock together.

The adverse ruling comes on top of one of the biggest income-tax raids in Tamil Nadu, targeted at the Sasikala family. Over 184 places have been searched and hundreds of documents have been seized. The culmination is the raid on the residence of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa last week when the tax men searched two rooms used by her former personal aide Poongundran and Sasikala’s niece Krishna Priya and recovered a laptop, a tablet, a few disks and pen drives all reportedly showing investments in over 60 shell companies and benami transactions.

Though Dinakaran was not covered by the raids, he is facing a money laundering case launched by the Enforcement Directorate. He has said the raids are aimed at driving him out of politics. How long he can hold out remains to be seen.

First published: 23 November 2017, 21:23 IST