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Expelled, Pugazhendhi hits outs: ‘OPS has no say in AIADMK, will be sidelined by EPS’

Speaking to IndianExpress.com, Pugazhendhi explains his relationship with Palaniswami and O Pannerselvam, how the AIADMK is functioning following its loss in the Assembly elections, and whether he will join hands with Sasikala.

Written by Janardhan Koushik | Chennai |
June 17, 2021 2:48:27 pm
V Pugazhendhi (File photo)

V Pugazhendhi, the spokesperson of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), was among those expelled from the party this week over anti-party activities. The decision was taken at a meeting of newly elected MLAs in Chennai on Monday. Earlier, Pugazhendhi was shown the door for joining TTV Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) after J Jayalalithaa’s death in 2016. He returned to the AIADMK in early 2020 after a fallout with Dhinakaran.

Speaking to IndianExpress.com, Pugazhendhi explains his relationship with former chief minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami (EPS) and former deputy CM O Pannerselvam (OPS), how the party is functioning following its loss in the Assembly elections, and whether he would now join hands with Sasikala.

What made the AIADMK high command remove you from the party’s primary membership?

My expulsion was decided by the party a week ago; the events that unfolded on Monday were just a formality. They could have called me and conducted an inquiry if they thought I had erred. When Amma (Jayalalithaa) was alive, she would never expel a person without conducting an inquiry. I came back to the AIADMK after meeting Palaniswami in Salem to congratulate him on the bypoll victory.

Last Independence Day, all the senior party leaders flew to Palaniswami and Paneerselvam’s houses and conducted marathon meetings. I went to OPS first, which agitated Palaniswami. MLA Esakki Subbaiah called and asked me why I went to his house rather than coming to the [then] Chief Minister’s residence. I told him it was because he is the party coordinator. Subbaiah told me everyone thinks I am on OPS’ side. I didn’t get it at the time since I thought AIADMK was one party. However, since that event, I was branded an OPS supporter, and later accused of things I never said.

You accuse Palaniswami, but the letter of expulsion carried Pannerselvam’s signature too.

Except for Manoj Pandian, none of the MLAs were in support of Pannerselvam at that meeting. All these MLAs, including (Natham) Viswanathan, who had enjoyed benefits from Pannerselvam, have now backstabbed him.

Pannerselvam called me and apologised and said it was a mistake that he had no control over. He said the party was now in the hands of Palaniswami and his supporters. He said he was forced to sign the letter.

So, are you saying that Pannerselvam has no say in the party?

There is no dual leadership. There is only one leader. Pannerselvam was forced to accept the deputy legislature party leader position… or he would have been shown the door. I am telling you, in two or three months they will hold a general council and executive meeting and elect Palaniswami the general secretary and OPS will be sidelined and allotted a post like the presidium chairman.

What is your view on AIADMK’s performance in the recent Assembly elections?

Palaniswami is a non-approachable leader. He was listening to the election management team rather than to party workers on the ground. Functionaries at the district level were unable to send their feedback to the high command. The party won 66 seats in the election, of which 55 they retained. These areas are in AIADMK’s stronghold; the votes were for Amma and Puratchi Thalaivar (M G Ramachandran), not for Palaniswami.

Sasikala expressed shock at your removal. Is there a chance you will join hands with her?

I heard the audio tapes. Once she returns to politics, there will be plenty of changes in the AIADMK. Palaniswami and Co claim they are not bothered about Sasikala and call her actions ‘drama’… why are they then getting upset and removing party cadres?

I don’t have plans to join Sasikala or be part of the AMMK. I want AIADMK to function like it was during the period under Amma. The party is now stuck in the hands of Palaniswami, S P Velumani and Thangamani. They are the decision-makers and no one dare speak against them. I will do my best to save the party from the trio, to make sure it survives and faces the next election. Only time will tell whether I am starting a new party or have other plans.

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