Updated: May 11, 2021 2:56:45 am
Tamil Nadu’s opposition AIADMK on Monday unanimously elected former chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami as the legislative party leader, seemingly putting an end to reported internal friction with the faction supporting O Panneerselvam, the state’s former deputy chief minister.
Following the three-hour meeting, a senior AIADMK leader said there were no heated arguments over the post of Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly.
“Communication between Panneerselvam and Palaniswami continues to be cordial and friendly. But a section supporting Panneerselvam tried to make noise, as they hoped to trigger an argument in his favour,” the party leader said.
Asked about speculation that Panneerselvam might revolt against Palaniswami, this leader said the former deputy CM signed the decision as the party’s coordinator and left the venue. “Do you think he can revolt against Palaniswami with just one MLA’s support,” the leader asked.
Panneerselvam, who had 11 MLAs when his faction merged with the Palaniswami camp in August 2017, was seen as slowly having lost his support base within the party over the last few years. Post-elections, he is left with just one MLA in his camp, against 63 party legislators seen as supporting Palaniswami.
“Manoj Pandian is that single MLA (with Panneerselvam), but even he suggested that both senior leaders discuss and decide about the Opposition leader’s post,” a former state minister and AIADMK leader said.
Panneerselvam’s remarks at a party meeting last week – that Palaniswami’s unilateral decisions as CM had led to the party’s electoral defeat — had triggered speculation about a possible revolt over the election of Opposition leader. Addressing party office-bearers, the former deputy CM had suggested that Palaniswami’s hurried decision to give 10.5 per cent reservation to OBC-Vanniyar community put other communities against AIADMK in Tamil Nadu’s southern districts.
He had also said the party did not benefit from that reservation decision and argued that Salem was the only place where AIADMK benefited from Vanniyar votes. People in northern Tamil Nadu didn’t favour AIADMK, he had pointed out.
Multiple sources who attended last week’s meeting said Palaniswami didn’t give an aggressive reply either, further sparking talks of a revolt. “While Panneerselvam’s speech was careful and he spoke cautiously, Palaniswami replied to all of that in a few words, stating that all decisions were taken in good faith. He also said the decision to introduce reservation for the community was taken, since Vanniyars were seeking it for long,” a source in AIADMK said.
The AIADMK-led alliance won 75 of the state’s 234 Assembly seats with a vote share of 33.3 per cent.
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