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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Amid EPS-OPS tussle, AIADMK may defer announcement of CM candidate

A top source in the party, who is close Palaniswami, said there are chances to postpone the announcement to prevent an open clash.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Updated: October 3, 2020 8:48:41 am
Tamil Nadu CM K. Palaniswami with deputy O. Panneerselvam at a Gandhi Jayanti event in Chennai on Friday. (PTI)

While the AIADMK had earlier declared that the party’s chief minister candidate for next year’s Assembly elections would be announced on October 7, Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K Palaniswami, who enjoys absolute majority in the party hierarchy, is likely to seek deferment of the announcement as a “gesture to pacify and convince” the rival camp headed by Deputy CM O Panneerselvam, it is learnt.

A top source in the party, who is close Palaniswami, said there are chances to postpone the announcement to prevent an open clash.

“In the present situation, Panneerselvam is unlikely to attend the October 7 meeting, as it was slated to announce Palaniswami as the CM candidate,” the source said. “The CM doesn’t want to hurriedly go ahead with the announcement, as he wants to give Panneerselvam a chance to resolve this issue.”

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A senior minister close to Palaniswami, who is also holding talks with the Panneerselvam camp, said there is no question or debate over who the CM candidate is. “Palaniswami, with the support of a majority of MLAs and ministers, as well as the entire party, need not go for an announcement. It would be a mere ritual. Why would should he create an unnecessary tension over something that is so obvious? He will try to convince, pacify Panneerselvam to avoid an internal crisis that could lead to AIADMK’s political defeat,” the minister said.

Earlier, The Indian Express had reported that the BJP leadership in Delhi is talking to different groups to unite the ousted V K Sasikala faction in the AIADMK ahead of the polls. While this move was seen as one that could benefit BJP, as the saffron party is expected to demand about 60 seats in an alliance with AIADMK, with a hope to win at least 6 or 7, a senior BJP leader said they had no role in the internal crisis. “He (OPS) is doing things on his own, we never discussed…. He is totally clueless now,” a senior BJP leader said. “He tried for appointments in Delhi but wasn’t granted one. One top leader in Panneerselvam camp wants to join us before the elections.”

A seeming conflict in the party unfolded over a month ago, when Panneerselvam’s followers made attempts to celebrate him as the next CM candidate. Even if Panneerselvam himself discouraged his followers from making such moves, a party executive committee meeting held on Monday witnessed some remarks between rival camps — and even between Palaniswami and Panneerselvam.

On Tuesday, Panneerselvam was absent from a Covid-19 review meeting called by Palaniswami.

Close aides of Panneerselvam confirmed that he skipped the meeting and was holding talks with leaders in his camp.

With Panneerselvam trying to assert himself more in the party, his close aide said there have been “indirect and informal” chats with the Sasikala camp, too, but there has been “no reply yet” on whether the Deputy CM can really make peace with Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dhinakaran, leader of newly formed AMMK. More than Palaniswami, Sasikala is said to have seen Panneerselvam as the person who “betrayed” the party and led to the split after former CM and party supremo J Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016.

However, the OPS associate said, there may be chances as any progress in their talks will politically help to consolidate votes of OBC-Thevar community, a support base that made Panneerselvam a trustworthy and loyalist of Sasikala since 2001.

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