AIADMK merger talks stalled as rival factions wrangle

The two factions of the AIADMK were on Monday squabbling and blaming each other for the delay in merger talks getting off the ground, days after they formed committees for carrying forward the negotiations.

PTI| Last Updated: Apr 24, 2017, 20:15 PM IST

Chennai: The two factions of the AIADMK were on Monday squabbling and blaming each other for the delay in merger talks getting off the ground, days after they formed committees for carrying forward the negotiations.

The O Panneerselvam camp has refused to abandon its key demands of expulsion of VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran from the party and institution of a CBI probe into late chief minister J Jayalalithaa's death before talks could start.

"If these demands are met, there will be no other condition from us," KP Munusamy, a close Panneerselvam aide, said.

The AIADMK (Amma) camp led by Chief Minister EK Palaniswami had revolted against jailed party general secretary Sasikala and her deputy Dhinakaran last Tuesday, and announced their ouster.

A day later, Dhinakaran, who is being questioned by the Delhi police for the last three days for allegedly trying to bribe an Election Commission official for the undivided AIADMK's 'two leaves' election symbol, had said he was "stepping aside". However, the two have not been officially expelled from the party.

Panneerselvam's AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma) faction said there was "confusion" in the Palaniswami camp.

Munusamy objected to publication of an article in AIADMK mouthpiece 'Dr Namathu MGR' which, he claimed, said the party was with Sasikala and Dhinakaran.

Alleging that Sasikala was capable of "destroying" the party, Munusamy said the Pannerselvam faction would not compromise on the stand for her expulsion.

The Panaliswami camp, however, insisted there was no confusion on their side over merger talks and that it had already extended an invitation to the Panneerselvam faction.

Rajya Sabha MP R Vaithilingam, who heads the panel formed by the Palaniswami camp for talks, said "We have sent messages to them, including to Munusamy, but they have not contacted us. We have contacted Manoj Pandian (of OPS camp) who said they have set conditions and are not ready to come."

On the demands of the opposite camp, he said Panneerselvam was the Tamil Nadu chief minister for 60 days after Jayalalithaa's death and he could have recommended a CBI probe into the leader's death.

"Now there is a court case in this regard. If court says so, we are ready (to recommend a CBI probe)," he said.

Further, the Election Commission is looking at the issue of Sasikala's elevation as the party chief, Vaithilingam said, adding, "we will ensure unity in the party on the basis of what it (EC) says."

The Panneerselvam camp has moved the EC challenging the appointment of Sasikala as AIADMK general secretary, contending it was done in violation of the party bylaws.

On the merger talks, Vaithilingam said his side was ready to discuss "any concrete suggestion for the betterment" of AIADMK.

The party has named senior ministers D Jayakumar, C Srinivasan, K A Sengottaiyan, P Thangamani, SP Velumani and C Ve Shanmugam on the panel constituted for merger talks with the Panneerselvam faction.

Finance Minister D Jayakumar had yesterday said he was ready to quit the government in favour of Panneerselvam if that would help forge unity.

He had also said the doors for holding talks were always open and the party was ready to discuss the issue across the table.

"I am willing to give up all portfolios held by me for the betterment of the party and for the party's unity, after getting the approval of chief minister Palaniswami," he said.

He was replying to a question on reports that Panneerselvam, thrice chief minister of the state, may seek the finance portfolio as a condition for merger. Panneerselvam filled-in for Jayalalithaa twice when she had to go to jail on corruption charges and the last time when she was on the deathbed.

Munusamy said although the Palaniswami camp had announced setting up a panel for merger talks, some in the faction were "contradicting it".

He said Panneerselvam faction expected the Palaniswami camp to invite them for talks since they were the ones who had announced the formation of the panel first.

"But confusing statements are coming from different leaders there. One leader says a panel has been formed, while some other says it has not been done," Munusamy said.

"We believe they are confused and are not in a position to take decisions. Somebody else is directing them," he said without naming anybody, but apparently hinting at Sasikala and Dhinakaran.

Dhinakaran had said he was stepping aside but cannot resign as AIADMK deputy general secretary without the approval of Sasikala, who is serving jail term in a disproportionate assets case in which Jayalalithaa was the main accused.