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Even as the stage appears set for a merger between rival factions of the AIADMK, a war of words has erupted between the factions in their attempt to gain the upper hand in sealing the deal. Soon after ministers in the ruling faction, headed by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, agreed to the demand of the O Panneerselvam faction to keep out TTV Dinakaran and his aunt V K Sasikala, Panneerselvam on Wednesday claimed this development as his first victory in the effort to save the party.
A statement from M Thambidurai, an MP with the ruling faction, quickly followed, reiterating that Palaniswami would not be removed from the Chief Minister’s post.
On Thursday, minister D Jayakumar maintained that the decision to keep Sasikala’s family away was taken for the party’s future, not because of pressure from Panneerselvam. “Panneerselvam would even claim that Donald Trump was elected US President by him,” Jayakumar said, ridiculing Panneerselvam’s attempt to take credit for the Sasikala family ouster.
The Panneerselvam faction, in turn, presented two conditions to the ruling faction for the merger. They wanted the AIADMK (Amma) faction to withdraw the affidavits filed with the Election Commission declaring Sasikala and Dinakaran as general secretary and deputy general secretary, respectively. They also demanded that Palaniswami seek a CBI probe into the death of former CM and party chief J Jayalalithaa.
While many leaders from the Panneerselvam faction claimed that Dinakaran’s ouster was an eyewash, former minister K P Munusamy (with Panneerselvam) said: “We want the expulsion of Sasikala as general secretary and Dinakaran as deputy general secretary. A statement must be issued. Also, a CBI probe on Amma’s death is must. Otherwise we will not hold talks with them.”
The AIADMK (Amma) camp clarified that they had set up a panel to hold talks with the Panneerselvam camp, but without any conditions.
Rajya Sabha member R Vaithilingam (with ruling faction) said they wanted the party united and the party symbol retrieved from the Election Commission. Insisting that they were ready to talk but without conditions, Vaithilingam asked why Panneerselvam did not set up a probe team on Jayalalithaa’s death when he was CM. “Already there is a PIL before the Madras High Court on Amma’s death. The state government is ready to act on the court’s order,” he said. Vaithilingam pointed out that Dinakaran had already distanced himself from the party and Sasikala was in prison.
Amid reports that Palaniswami demanded the resignation of Health Minister C Vijayabaskar on Thursday, opposition leader M K Stalin said the two AIADMK factions had brought shame on Tamil Nadu as they were only interested in being in power or capturing power.