MADURAI/CHENNAI: In what seems to be a fresh sign of discord in the ruling AIADMK, loyalists of Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam today said they did not get any invite for a key party event in which Chief Minister K Palaniswami participated.
Significantly, Panneerselvam, who was conspicuous by his absence in the event that was held in Madurai today, later batted for unity in the party while taking part in another function along with Palaniswami.
The second function was held at Ramanathapuram, about 115 km from Madurai.
Recounting a tale of a wrestler narrated by late J Jayalalithaa years ago to party workers to underscore the importance of unity among party workers, he said Amma (late Jayalalithaa) highlighted the importance of unity through that story.
"We have got back our victorious two-leaves symbol as we all stood united following the words of Amma," Panneerselvam said.
Indicating that unity was essential to win the December 21 R K Nagar bypoll, he said, "With the same unity, and with the support of people we will script a massive win in the bypoll and dedicate the victory to Amma." Palaniswami, who spoke after him in the event to commemorate former chief minister M G Ramachandran's birth centenary, promptly referred to the unity call in his opening remarks.
The chief minister said, "Honourable deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam has articulated good views on staying united." Palaniswami further said his deputy expressed good views and gave good advice to the party workers.
Revenue Minister R B Udayakumar said there was no rift and cadres of the party accepted the leadership of the chief minister and the deputy chief minister.
"For us, of the two leaves (party symbol), one leaf stood for EPS (K Palaniswami) and one leaf stood for OPS (O Panneerselvam)," he told reporters.
"There is no rift or crack in the party and the CM and the deputy CM are working like double-barreled gun," he said.
Asked about Panneerselvam not taking part in the Madurai event, he said they (Palaniswami and Panneerselvam) are united.
Panneerselvam had to participate in some temple function and hence he could not come to Madurai, the minister said, adding every issue is tackled by both leaders in consultation with others.
The Madurai event, called "Mupperum Vizha," (a single event to mark celebration of three different occasions) was organised to celebrate the AIADMK getting back its two-leaves symbol, the centenary of party founder M G Ramachandran and to hail Jayalalithaa.
Rajya Sabha MP and a known Panneerselvam loyalist, V Maithreyan said in Chennai that proper intimation should have been sent to all party workers, functionaries, and leaders.
Maithreyan, who recently raised the discontent row between Panneerselvam and Palaniswami factions, said the Madurai event was important since it was the first to celebrate the party getting back its poll symbol.
He said Madurai-based MP Gopalakrishnan and MLA Saravanan, who were in the Panneerselvam camp previously, did not get the invite and added that such "goof-up" should be avoided.
"I do not know if Panneerselvam was invited, if he was formally apprised about the Madurai event, or if he had any other engagement (at the time of the event)," he told reporters in response to a question.
Stating that several leaders had worked to get back the party symbol, he said, "Recognising that we too have a role in retrieving the party symbol, we should have been intimated about the event and that is our disappointment." "That event is over, I think we can put a full stop to it. Still we have a troubled feeling about it...let the future be a season of spring though the past has been bitter," he said.
Maithreyan said he believed that party coordinator Panneerselvam and co-coordinator Palaniswami will discuss the issue and "prevent its recurrence".
The Rajya Sabha MP told reporters that he called on Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit in connection with a music event, and that they did not discuss anything else.
A party information technology wing functionary and Panneerselvam loyalist, Aspire K Swaminathan, in his Facebook post in Tamil, said that there was no invite or information for anyone including the leaders for the Madurai event.
Some publicity material like posters for the Madurai event prominently had the name of Palaniswami but not Panneerselvam's.
The Palaniswami and Panneerselvam factions had merged in August after ousting jailed leader V K Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dhinakaran.
The Election Commission on November 23 allotted the 'two leaves' symbol to the unified AIADMK led by Palaniswami and Panneerselvam, dealing a blow to the Sasikala faction.
Dhinakaran has announced that he would contest the bypoll to the R K Nagar Assembly constituency here, which fell vacant after the demise of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa last year.