CHENNAI: Ministers of the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu came together around 11 pm today and told the media that they were in favour of merging the two factions of the party after rebel leader O Panneerselvam said he was open to the option earlier this morning.
They gathered for a late night meeting at Electricity Minister P Thangamani’s house in Greenways Road in the city.
Led by Finance Minister D Jayakumar, several ministers spoke as one in saying that they were in favour of the merger. They hoped it would also put an end to the tug of war over the Two Leaves party symbol, which the Election Commission froze ahead of the RK Nagar bypoll. The bypoll was cancelled after allegations that arose that AIADMK deputy general secretary and poll candidate TTV Dhinakaran had tried to bribe voters.
Earlier today, in another development, the Delhi police filed a case against Dhinakaran, charging him with having tried to bribe Election Commission officials to ensure the Two Leaves party symbol is allocated to the AIADMK-ruling faction led by him. The Delhi police have nabbed a conman Sukesh Chandrashekhar, who they claim is Dhinakaran’s accomplice who was tasked with bribing the EC officials.
At today’s press conference, when asked whether Dhinakaran would quit his party post, Jayakumar said the defacto party head had ruled it out. Once Dhinakaran returns from his trip to Bengaluru where he went to visit his aunt and party general secretary VK Sasikala at the Parappana Agrahara prison, they would sit together and work out the terms of the merger, Jayakumar said.
To a question whether rumours that Sasikala had given up her post as General Secretary of the AIADMK, Law Minister C Ve Shanmugham shot out saying it was “a pack of lies”.
Ministers including Health Minister C Vijayabaskar, who is under the Income Tax scanner, were present at the meeting, whereas Chief Minister K Palanisamy did not attend it. Earlier in the day, the Chief Minister too held talks with his Cabinet colleagues.
The meetings are being held after Panneerselvam spoke about merger talks. Earlier, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai said that Dhinakaran faction was ready for talks with Panneerselvam for a patch-up.
Incidentally, Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao arrived in the city earlier in the day.
According to the CNN News 18, D Maitreyan, Rajya Sabha MP of the AIADMK, who joined hands with Panneerselvam, the only way in which his faction would agree to a merger is with OPS as chief minister. This raises questions about the future of Edappadi K Palanisamy, who is currently heading the government. His absence at the meeting, therefore gave rise to speculation.
In the past couple of days, there has been a buzz about a possible merger between the two AIADMK factions. The case against Dhinakaran today and the meeting of ministers held in his absence seem to point to a sidelining of the Mannargudi family of Sasikala. The OPS faction has always pointed out that the Sasikala and family have never found favour with the public in Tamil Nadu.
With Sasikala in jail and her nephew now charged with a case, the ministers who gathered together claimed that all the MLAs of the party were united in their desire to merge as one party.