A day after a Madras High Court order restored O Panneerselvam as the AIADMK’s party coordinator, he extended an olive branch to his rival within the party, Edappadi K Palaniswami. However, Palaniswami, also known as EPS, ruled out chances of uniting with Panneerselvam. He also alleged that Panneerselvam, known as OPS, had stolen many crucial documents of party assets.
Panneerselvam, who addressed the media on Thursday morning, insisted that the AIADMK was not in an unusual situation. He said the party should be sustained as a force for the poor for 100 years, and that he was ready to forget all disagreements with Palaniswami and unite with him for the party’s future.
“I wish to make it clear that my stand is to unite and work for the party. Whatever happened is over. Even if they (the EPS faction) were against us, considering the sacrifices of Amma (former Tamil Nadu CM and party supremo J Jayalalithaa) and MGR (former CM and party founder M G Ramachandran), the 1.5 crore workers of the AIADMK wish to see a united party. That is the feedback I am getting from different corners,” he said.
He also said it was the AIADMK’s duty to play the role of a powerful democratic opposition to resist the ruling DMK.
“When he (Palaniswami) was the CM, I cooperated with him wholeheartedly. I wish to restore that equation again… It is not about dual leadership but joint leadership. Uniting the party is my aim,” he said.
He also mentioned ousted leaders V K Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran. “Chinnamma (Sasikala, as she is called by her supporters) and Dhinakaran too… It is not about whether they are joining us or we are joining them, but everyone should come together to restore the united status of the party,” he said.
Palaniswami, however, ruled out any chance of uniting with Panneerselvam. He referred to Panneerselvam as “the senior leader who ransacked the party headquarters and stole important documents of party assets with the help of rowdies and police”.
The majority of party workers and leaders, including the general council members, demand a single leadership, Palaniswami said, referring to his own appointment as the interim general secretary at a meeting on July 11, which is now invalid with Wednesday’s court order.
“Earlier, there were meetings with party leaders from different districts for 15 days in which they demanded a single leadership. OPS himself was part of it. The general council meeting on June 23 also called for the same with the consent of OPS. Despite being a coordinator, still he went to the court and police to stop it,” Palaniswami said. How can the AIADMK cadres follow such a leader, he asked.
EPS’s rejection of OPS’s truce offer shows that the feud within the AIADMK is no closer to being resolved. The strong words and allegation used by EPS against OPS means there’s little chance of the two factions uniting any time soon. The question of dual leadership vs single leadership in the party, which is closely tied to the EPS-OPS feud, also leaves uncertain the future of the party’s organisational structure.
On Panneerselvam’s call for unity, Palaniswami said this was “something he does often”.
“Because he cannot survive without power. If there is no power, he will go for dharma yudha (righteous war). He wants power without hard work. He wants benefits for his family, too. Whatever happens to the party, he wants to make his son an MP and get him a central minister post,” Palaniswami said, adding that the same person who is calling for unity now had led “rowdies” to the party office on July 11.
“Instead of attending the party meeting, he led rowdies to the party office, attacked our own party men, entered the party headquarters, broke the main doors and several other doors inside, damaged computers, burned files, and stole some of the key documents related to party assets which are still with them,” he said, adding that his camp would look at the court order and take legal steps to safeguard the interest of party.