In A setback to deposed party leader V K Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dinakaran, the Election Commission (EC) on Thursday allotted the AIADMK’s “two leaves” symbol to the unified front of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami (EPS) and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS).
Speaking to reporters hours after the EC’s order, Dinakaran said the poll panel “cannot act impartially”. He said he would challenge the order in the Supreme Court.
In its 83-page order, the EC said it “is of the considered opinion that the petitioners group led by Shri E Madhusudhanan, O Paneerselvam and S Semmalai, and also supported presently by the impleading applicant Shri E K Palaniswami, the present Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, enjoys support of majority of members, both in the organisational and legislature wings of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra
The EC said this group would hereby be “recognised in terms of para 15 of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam” which is a “recognised state party in the State of Tamil Nadu and in the Union Territory of Puducherry, for whom the symbol ‘Two Leaves’ is reserved in the said state and union territory.”
Through this order, the EC noted, it has “withdrawn and rescinded” its earlier interim order on freezing the party symbol, after the two AIADMK factions — led by Sasikala, who is currently serving a four-year sentence in a disproportionate assets case, and Panneerselvam — staked claim.
Welcoming the EC’s order, OPS said the party’s true leaders were those who held posts when J Jayalalithaa was alive. Referring to Dinakaran, he said, “they were trying to sabotage this government of Amma. Nobody will support their attempt to overthrow this government.”
The ruling will help the EPS-OPS camp consolidate itself as it allows them to elect a new general secretary. Having gained control of the party, this faction can seek the disqualification of MLAs and MPs loyal to Dinakaran.
Express Explained | When symbol is party: Why both ADMK factions want two leaves
Alleging partiality by the EC, Dinakaran pointed out that it was OPS who had demanded a freeze on the party symbol in February. “At that time, he had only 12 MLAs and few MPs, while we had the majority support with 127 MLAs and 37 MPs, but they listened to him. Now they are favouring them again, without even looking at the support of party cadres in favour of us,” he said.
He said he would file an appeal in the Supreme Court. “The Chief Election Commissioner is a former Gujarat Chief Secretary. So despite the independent nature of the body, the EC cannot act impartially. The EC is essentially working for the central government,” he said, adding that giving the party symbol to the EPS-OPS faction was like giving a “garland in the hands of monkeys.”
He said he would approach the Governor again and seek a floor test. “The Governor already knows that this is a minority government. But who is he? He is also a representative of the Centre. The Centre which earlier favoured OPS is now favouring EPS, that is the only difference. OPS is already in trouble, we will wait and see his fate,” said Dinakaran, referring to statements by OPS faction leader V Maitreyan hinting at problems in the unified AIADMK.
The EC’s ruling will have a bearing on the petition filed by 18 disqualified MLAs in the Madras High Court. With the EC expected to announce the date for bypoll to R K Nagar constituency, which was held by J Jayalalithaa, the Dinakaran faction will have to move fast.
“All aspects of the judgment will be examined and, whether High Court or Supreme Court, the appropriate legal proceedings to challenge it will be taken,” said senior lawyer Abhishek Singhvi, who represents Dinakaran.
The EC, in in its order, noted that the main plea advanced by the petitioners in support of their claim was that the “group led by them enjoys support of majority of members in the organisational and legislature wings of the party.”
“For the above purpose, the petitioners pray that the Commission should apply the test of majority in the organisational and legislature wings of the party as was applied by it in the case of split in the Indian National Congress in 1969 and which was upheld by the Supreme Court in Sadiq Ali and Another Vs Election Commission of India and Others,” said the poll panel.
The “objections of the respondents that the petitioners have not approached the Commission with clean hands is rejected,” it said. “The prayers of the respondents and some of the impleading applicants for cross-examination of deponents of the affidavit filed on behalf of the petitioners is also rejected. There is no denial of natural justice to the respondent by not allowing the cross-examination of the said deponents,” it added.
In its order, the EC also noted that “for purposes of determining the relative strength of the organisational wing under para 15 of the Symbols order, the Commission will confine its scrutiny to representative bodies of the party.”