In what can be called as a major development hinting towards sewing up of an unprecedented merger between the two warring factions in the Tamil Nadu Government, the V.K. Sasikala and the O. Panneerselvam groups of the All Anna India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) met on late Monday night to discuss and deliberate over the possibilities of their unification. The focus of the meeting was on the residences of Thangamani and Udumalai Radhakrishnan where two separate meetings went on to discuss the resignation of Sasikala’s nephew T.T.V. Dhinakaran and being a back seat driver of the party.
Briefing the media after the meeting, Tamil Nadu Finance Minister D. Jayakumar said all 123 AIADMK lawmakers and party cadres were on the same page and discussed about the possibilities of retaining the ‘Two Leaves’ symbol, which had been frozen by the Election Commission. “We discussed about keeping the party united. O. Panneerselvam gave an opinion which we welcome. We discussed about how we can take the party forward in a united way,” Jayakumar said. “Having welcomed his opinion, we will further hold discussions and deliberate about the merger,” he added. Jayakumar further said that an affidavit would be given to the Election Commission to claim the AIADMK’s symbol. “This is like a fight between brothers. We will unite and retrieve the two leaves symbol together,” senior AIADMK leader Velumani said.
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When asked if Sasikala would quit from the party in case the merger took place, Jayakumar said, “We have no information regarding this.” Jayakumar further said the talks about the merger would take shape once party’s deputy general secretary and Sasikala’s nephew Dhinakaran arrives in Chennai. The developments come after the Delhi Police booked Dhinakaran on charges of bribing Election Commission officials to get the ‘Two Leaves’ symbol.
The Delhi Police Crime Branch recovered approximately Rs. 1.3 crore from alleged middleman Sukesh Chandrashekhar. Dinakaran, who is considered to be a close Sasikala aide, later said that he was ready to legally face any summons from the Delhi Police. The case against the AIADMK general secretary came soon after I-T raids on 50 locations in Tamil Nadu during which the officials seized Rs. 5.5 crore from Tamil Nadu Health Minister Vijaya Baskar’s associates.
Vijaya Baskar is said to be a supporter of Dinakaran. Dhinakaran’s faction had contested on the hat symbol after the Election Commission froze the two leaves symbol while acknowledging the split in the party. The AIADMK underwent major political changes post former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s demise, following which Panneerselvam was elected as the chief minister until Sasikala was chosen as the party general secretary.
The schism within the party further deepened when Panneerselvam alleged that he was forced by the Sasikala-led faction to step down from the post. Sasikala, however, suffered a major jolt when the Karnataka High Court held her and her aides guilty in a 19-year-old disproportionate assets case and ordered her to finish the remaining jail-term of four years. Subsequently, Dhinakaran was elected as the deputy general secretary of the AIADMK and Elapadi K. Palanisamy as the Chief Minister. If the merger does come successful, this will be a new chapter in the political drama of the AIADMK post Jayalalithaa’s demise.
A unification of the warring factions can augur well for the AIADMK and the state politics especially considering the fate the recently-held R.K. Nagar by-polls met with. The merger may, however, prove to be a deterrent in Sasikala’s intended future in the Tamil Nadu politics.