AIADMK factions near formal merger talks
Chennai: The two rival factions of Tamil Nadu’s ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) moved closer towards formal merger talks on Friday, seeking to end the internecine fight that followed the death of party leader and chief minister J. Jayalalithaa.
The faction led by the chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami decided to form a committee that would conduct talks with members of the rival camp led by O. Panneerselvam. Rajya Sabha member R. Vaithilingam will head the panel.
S.P. Velumani, a minister in Palaniswami’s cabinet, said, “We...do not have any preconditions. We have invited them (Panneerselvam faction) for talks.”
Panneerselvam’s faction said it would reciprocate the move. “Considering the welfare of party supporters and people, we are also going to form a committee,” Panneerselvam aide K.P. Munusamy told reporters.
The developments came a day after merger efforts appeared to have hit a roadblock with the Panneerselvam camp seeking the formal expulsion of V.K. Sasikala and her nephew T.T.V. Dinakaran from the party. It also sought a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the circumstances leading to Jayalalithaa’s death on 5 December. Dinakaran said earlier this week that he was “stepping aside” in the interest of the party.
Jayalalithaa’s passing away after more than two months of hospitalization in Chennai triggered turmoil in the AIADMK.
Sasikala, a close associate of Jayalalithaa, was named party general secretary, putting her in line to take over as chief minister, but she was convicted by the Supreme Court in February in a case of owning assets disproportionate to her sources of income and jailed for four years.
The law prohibits a convicted politician from holding or contesting for public office for six years after completion of the sentence.
The general secretary’s faction of the AIADMK reacted to the judgment by sacking Panneerselvam from the party and appointing Palaniswami as the chief minister designate—leading to a split in the party.
Palaniswami won a trust vote in the assembly in February with 122 votes in favour; 11 legislators belonging to the Panneerselvam camp voted against, after protesting opposition party members were evicted from the assembly.