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EPS in Delhi, Sasikala’s return to AIADMK or merger may be discussed

Palaniswami is expected to talk politics with BJP bigwigs on Monday and Tuesday during the visit, which has been touted as one to invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the inauguration of the newly-built Jayalalithaa Memorial in Chennai.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
Updated: January 19, 2021 8:54:01 am
Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K Palaniswami with Union Home Minister Amit Shah at his residence in Delhi. (PTI)

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami’s visit to Delhi on Monday gained huge significance with multiple sources in the AIADMK and BJP mentioning negotiations to let V K Sasikala — the ousted party leader who is scheduled to be released from a jail in Bengaluru on or before January 27 — merge or join the AIADMK-BJP alliance before the Assembly polls.

Palaniswami is expected to talk politics with BJP bigwigs on Monday and Tuesday during the visit, which has been touted as one to invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the inauguration of the newly-built Jayalalithaa Memorial in Chennai.

It was Sasikala who made Palaniswami a CM before she was jailed after her conviction in a disproportionate asset case in early 2017.

A senior BJP leader said Palaniswami’s meetings with Home Minister Amit Shah and PM Modi will discuss the political scenario too. “Election seat-sharing and alliance strengthening were pending for discussion,” the leader said, adding that Sasikala’s nephew and AMMK chief TTV Dhinakaran had also expressed his willingness to join the AIADMK and “our leadership had a view that we should consider all possible options to make the alliance stronger”.

Sources close to Dhinakaran and two senior AIADMK ministers confirmed this.

“We need to strengthen our secular front. Having BJP in the alliance means we are going to lose secular, minority votes. Getting Dhinakaran on board will bring back a sizable minority of votes,” said a minister.

While Dhinakaran camp is of the view that they should unite to defeat DMK in the upcoming polls and deal with all differences later, another AIADMK minister said it was not the AIADMK but Dhinakaran who first pitched the idea about a merger again.

“He didn’t approach us directly but talks were happening through BJP. It could be either the Sasikala faction, including Sasikala and Dhinakaran, joining back AIADMK with significant posts or their AMMK joining the alliance,” the minister said.

However, reportedly, no talks were unconditional. Multiple leaders in both AIADMK and Sasikala camps told The Indian Express that Dhinakaran has been demanding 30 seats for AMMK if there is a deal for an alliance. And if both ousted leaders are taken back to the party, the demand is for key party posts.

While the BJP is supporting the idea, it is now reportedly Palaniswami’s concern that is delaying the talks as he fears he may have to work under Sasikala again in case the AIADMK is defeated in the upcoming polls.

Of 234 Assembly seats, the AIADMK plans to to allocate 20 to 25 for BJP, 30 to 35 for S Ramadoss’s PMK, 15 to 18 for Captain Vijayakanth’s DMDK and the to contest the rest on them on its party symbol — smaller outfits will be given seats but on the AIADMK’s Two Leaves symbol.

While Palaniswami and a section of his close aides are buying time to consider Sasikala’s reentry, what makes Dhinakaran relevant for the alliance is his influence. In the 2019 polls, he had 4 per cent of the vote share, which is considered as about 15 per cent of the AIADMK’s vote bank besides sizable influence in the Delta and southern regions, which are bastions of Sasikala’s Mukkalathor community.

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