CHENNAI: From the cusp of merger, the two AIADMK factions seems to have returned to the familiar zone of uncertainty within just a few hours on Friday. Though details are sketchy still, indications are that it is the trouble within the rebel faction headed by former chief minister O Panneerselvam that is delaying the next step.
Panneerselvam has been closeted in a series of meetings with the key leaders of the faction including MLAs and MPs, and also office-bearers from various levels who waged their bets on Panneerselvam winning the rebellion against the establishment, now led by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.
Sources said a powerful section of seniors within the rebel camp are unwilling for a soft compromise with the ruling faction, driving a hard bargain for respect – euphemism for posts and positions in the combined entity.
This has pressed the pause button on merger moves after the frenzy on Friday evening. OPS' supporters, in fact, told the media awaiting the announcement of the merger that there will be no press meet today.
Palaniswami and Panneerselvam were huddled in intense discussions with leaders of their factions, while a little distance away, the Jaya memorial was decked up with flowers, and flooded with cadre and police personnel. A few MLAs had landed there, along with large contingent of media personnel expecting a historic announcement at the same venue where Panneerselvam announced his stunning revolt.
However, the leaders and cadre, who braved the rain in anticipation that this was the beginning of the end of the revolt, began deserting the memorial after word spread that the rebels were yet to decide on the terms. The cadre soon followed them, and then a section of the police personnel, leaving only a handful of persons, including those from the media, to keep vigil at the Marina.
Even if they manage to initiate the merger signalling the end of the rebellion, it won’t be the end of trouble for the party.
As it became clear that the two sides were on the verge of merger, ousted deputy general secretary TTV Dhinakaran, who has come to become the rallying point for a group of dissenters who have differences with both EPS and OPS factions, openly warned they had the power to disrupt the plans.
“We have MLAs like sleeper cells. We will prove our strength when it is needed,” Dhinakaran told the media in Bengaluru after meeting his aunt and party general secretary VK Sasikala.
Dhinakaran and the MLAs in his faction have been maintaining that merger was not possible without his intervention. However, after finding himself pushed further to the margins, he said on Friday that the present merger would not last for long as the two sides have come together for ‘selfish interests and not in the interest of party cadre’.
“The merger seems to be taking place for commercial reasons, and to safeguard the positions of certain persons. So, it won’t last long,” he said.
Not giving up without a fight, the MLAs and office-bearers loyal to him have gathered at a hotel in Chennai to discuss the future course of action. Dhinakaran said Sasikala advised him about the steps to be taken in the coming days, but refused to reveal what the next step would be.