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Rival AIADMK factions to announce merger on Monday, OPS gives in out of despair

AIADMK merger: A senior leader in the OPS camp confirmed this deal, adding that at least 10 top-most leaders in his camp will be getting key posts, either in the government or the party, followed by the merger announcement expected on Monday.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
Updated: August 19, 2017 3:57:33 pm
AIADMK merger, O panneerselvam, OPS, V K Sasikala, Tamil nadu politics, EPS AIADMK merger: O Panneerselvam told reporters Saturday that the merger talks are in progress. “There will be a decision in two days. We will be taking a decision in favour of party cadres,” he said.

After Friday’s marathon meetings, the O Panneerselvam faction of the AIADMK decided to seal the merger deal with the ruling faction, headed by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, with the announcement scheduled for Monday. The decision was taken amid a continued standoff between leaders within the AIADMK rival factions and the huge pressure from the BJP at the Centre to make the merger official before August 22. According to top sources in both rival AIADMK factions and the BJP, the merger will be announced on Monday, a day before the scheduled visit of BJP president Amit Shah.

Panneerselvam told reporters Saturday that the merger talks are in progress. “There will be a decision in two days. We will be taking a decision in favour of party cadres,” he said.

Top sources in OPS and EPS camps elaborated the merger deal, which was decided late on Friday, and informed to Delhi. Expulsion of general secretary V K Sasikala and her family from the party and a CBI probe on Jayalalithaa’s death – two key demands set by the OPS camp for the merger, however, are not met. The third important demand – chief minister post or party general secretary position for OPS with the expulsion of Sasikala – is also not met. But a united AIADMK will make a new post ‘equivalent’ to General Secretary for OPS besides the Deputy CM post offered to him. The OPS camp is also promised two plum portfolios in the state cabinet – PWD and Highways – to assert their significance and power as these two portfolios have a huge stake in the state budgetary allocations.

The merger deal will also involve the removal of Sasikala from the party, but only after a month, followed by necessary procedures including a general body of the AIADMK to be held post-unification.

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AIADMK merger, O panneerselvam, OPS, V K Sasikala, Tamil nadu politics, EPS AIADMK merger: Actors in the AIADMK saga — Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (L), TTV Dinakaran (C) and TN Chief Minister E K Palanisami (R).

A senior AIADMK minister said even if OPS was denied the CM post as EPS was not willing to step down, “he (OPS) will get two more ministerial berths in the state cabinet besides his own deputy CM post.” Other than OPS, Mafoi Pandiarajan, the school education minister, was the only leader in the OPS camp who was a minister in the state government.

A senior leader in the OPS camp confirmed this deal, adding that at least 10 top-most leaders in his camp will be getting key posts, either in the government or the party, followed by the merger announcement expected on Monday. “Besides Deputy CM, highways and PWD portfolios, we are promised many more district secretary posts and top posts in the state boards,” said a leader.

Inspite of alleged pressure from top BJP leaders in Delhi and an RSS leader in Chennai who pulled the strings for the ‘forced merger’, there were strong dissenting voices against the merger within the party. While OPS and Mafoi Pandiarajan were desperate to settle the deal, a section opposed it as none of their demands were met. “OPS is in despair, he is guilty and sad. It has been more than five months since he is out of power. He had no other option but to agree for the merger sacrificing CM post and party Chief post,” said a leader.

A top BJP leader in Tamil Nadu denied reports that it was a forced merger deal facilitated by Delhi. He indicated that the merger deal is likely to trigger some dissent voices too. “We wanted this merger to happen for the people of Tamil Nadu and to eliminate Sasikala family from the politics. Leaders like K P Munuswamy were against the merger idea in OPS camp as CM EPS was adamant and refused to share the CM post and GS post. Munuswamy’s argument was that all demands should be met before the merger as it could not be achieved or demanded from the ruling faction after the merger. We expected a vertical split in OPS camp, but it has been normalised, there may be some public statements against merger from leaders like Munuswamy. Anyway we are told by both factions that they will go for the merger announcement on Monday itself,” he said.

What are the possibilities of sabotaging this merger deal before Monday? A senior minister said the lack of powerful leaders in both factions delayed the merger negotiations. “But the latest ultimatum from Delhi made us arrive into an agreeable formula now. It is unlikely to change as the deadline set on August 22 is to be met by all who are holding power in the state,” he said.

In the meantime, going by the number of MLAs in the third faction headed by TTV Dinakaran, the government is likely to fall if there is a no-confidence motion or the Governor agrees to review the majority of the state. Dinakaran, with 20 MLAs publicly supporting him, is likely to have an upper hand in deciding the future of the government and merger deal, especially if a united AIADMK goes ahead with its plan to remove Sasikala from the party in one month. “If OPS with hardly 10 MLAs could do this much, imagine our power with 20 MLAs, three independent MLAs and many more MLAs and an entire party awaiting to announce their stand,” a leader close to Dinakaran.

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