The two warring factions of Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK will come together, state finance and fisheries minister D Jayakumar hinted after a late-night meeting attended by more than 20 ministers on Monday.
The meeting held in the Chennai residence of electricity minister K Thangamani discussed the modalities of the coming together of the E Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam camps, Jayakumar said.
The development came on the day Delhi Police booked AIADMK deputy general secretary TTV Dinakaran for allegedly trying to bribe an Election Commission official to get the party’s “two leaves” symbol allotted to his faction.
Speculations were rife that this might drive more MLAs and ministers to the opposing AIADMK faction led by former chief minister Panneerselvam.
Also, calls were getting louder for Dinakaran to step down after the Election Commission cancelled the RK Nagar assembly by-election following a cash-for-vote scandal, sources said.
Dinakaran, a nephew of general secretary VK Sasikala who is serving time in a corruption case, is the party’s RK Nagar candidate.
The seat fell vacant after the death of chief minister J Jayalalithaa on December 5, and the bypoll turned into a battle for her legacy between Sasikala, her aide of almost 30 years, and Panneerselvam, a loyalist.
“We have welcomed OPS statement of willingness to work together and will speak with TTV Dinakaran upon his return from Bangalore and take a decision.”
Monday night’s hour-and-half-long meeting also discussed how to get the “two leaves” symbol back for the party, Jayakumar said, pointing out that they will have to submit a “lot of documents” to the Election Commission.
The poll panel had frozen the “two leaves” symbol after both Panneerselvam and Sasikala-Dhinakaran factions staked claim to it ahead of the now countermanded April 12 byelection to RK Nagar assembly constituency.
Now, all MLAs and ministers want to carry forward Amma’s (Jayalalithaa’s) ideology, policies and programmes, Jayakumar said, deflecting questions on the modalities of the merger proposal and what the formula for unification would be.
After tax raids, ruling AIADMK (Amma) battles internal strife in Tamil Nadu
“We have welcomed OPS statement of willingness to work together and will speak with TTV Dinakaran upon his return from Bangalore and take a decision,” the senior minister said.
Earlier in the day, Panneerselvam expressed confidence that Dinakaran faction leaders would approach him for merger talks.
“If approached, we are ready to sit and talk and I have confidence that they (leaders) will come (for talks),” he told reporters at the airport in Chennai.
During the day, speculations swirled about a possible pact between Palaniswami and Panneerselvam under which both VK Sasikala and Dinakaran would be ousted.
Asked about the speculation that Sasikala was preparing to quit as general secretary, Jayakumar said: “There is no such thing.” Law minister CV Shanmugam too termed it “a lie”.
The AIADMK had suffered a vertical split after Jayalalithaa’s death, following which her close aide Sasikala was appointed as the party chief.
However, in February this year, Panneerselvam revolted against Sasikala, alleging that he was forced to make way for her to become chief minister of the state.
Subsequently, some MPs and MLAs joined the Panneerselvam camp even as chief minister K Palaniswami, a Sasikala loyalist, survived a confidence vote in the state assembly.