All eyes on AIADMK meet amid ‘Sasikala factor’

Current round of power struggle between Palaniswami and Panneerselvam camps should end.

All eyes are on the meeting of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s executive, scheduled for Monday, to see how the party is going to resolve the current round of power struggle between the camps led by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam.

While Mr. Palaniswami’s supporters want him to be projected as the Chief Minister candidate in the coming Assembly election, the other group feels that preference should be given to organisational matters, with an equal representation to members of the Panneerselvam camp. The issue of Chief Mnister candidate could be decided after the Assembly election.

These points were broadly articulated by members of the camp — Electricity Minister and Namakkal strongman of the party P. Thangamani of the Palaniswami group, and former MLAs and organisation secretaries J.C.D. Prabhakar and P.H. Manoj Pandian of the Panneerselvam group — at a meeting of senior functionaries held at the party headquarters about 10 days ago.

Mr. Panneerselvam himself reiterated his demand that an 11-member steering committee be formed at the earliest as this was one of the points of convergence between the two camps at the time of reconciliation three years ago.

However, Mr. Palaniswami did not concur with him as the idea, according to him, would not be workable.

The power tussle is acquiring a different dimension with the possible return of the party’s former interim general secretary, V.K. Sasikala, to Tamil Nadu in the near future.

Efforts are on to get her freed ahead of the probable date of release from a Bengaluru jail — January 27, 2021.

An office-bearer of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) says the Palaniswami camp wants to settle the issue of chief ministerial candidate before Ms. Sasikala comes out of prison, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Panneerselvam had to resign as Chief Minister in February 2017 so that she could succeed him.

AMMK general secretary T.T.V. Dhinakaran’s visit to New Delhi a week ago was said to have been made to explore legal options to obtain Ms. Sasikala’s early release, the office-bearer explained. He added that there were chances of his party getting closer to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is being perceived in certain quarters as one that is keen on bringing the AIADMK and the AMMK under one umbrella, as it did in the case of the Palaniswami and Panneerselvam factions in August-September 2017.

Regardless of the outcome of the efforts to obtain Ms. Sasikala’s early release, several office-bearers of the ruling party, belonging to both camps, feel that disunity between the two leaders would be internecine at this point of time, when the Assembly election is seven or eight months away. While not being oblivious to the drubbing received at the hands of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its allies in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, they recall that the overall margin of victory between their party and the DMK-led combine in the 2016 Assembly election, even when the late Jayalalithaa was at the helm, was around one percentage point.

In several constituencies, the difference in terms of votes was in three digit figures.

On the Sasikala factor, a senior Minister said that instead of trying to be in the denial mode, the party should have a plan ready to tackle its likely impact.

A few other functionaries said it was not an impossible task for Mr. Palaniswami and Mr. Panneerselvam to thrash out their differences even now and present a united face.

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