CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who was once engaged in a bitter struggle for power with his rivals within his party AIADMK, has revealed that he had decided to merge his faction with that of Chief Minister K Palaniswami on the advice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
O Panneerselvam, who is also referred to as OPS, had said this while speaking at a party office-bearers meeting at Theni on February 16.
The AIADMK coordinator said that the issue came up during a courtesy meeting with PM Modi in New Delhi last year.
"He (Modi) said that you (Panneerselvam) could join (merge the faction) to save the party," the deputy chief minister said.
PM Modi told me 'To save party you should merge both AIADMK factions.' I agreed but said that I will not become a minister and will only take party position. PM said 'no no, you should be a minister& continue with politics,' and that is why today I am a minister- O Panneerselvam pic.twitter.com/mHSoI5U8Fc
— ANI (@ANI) February 17, 2018
OPS, however, did not elaborate when the meeting between the two took place.
Importantly, the two warring factions of the AIADMK – one led by OPS and the other by Palaniswami – merged in August 2016.
Panneerselvam, who become chief minister of the state following the death of his predecessor J Jayalalithaa in December 2016, also said that PM Modi that he did not want any Cabinet position and was ready to settle for a key party post.
However, the Prime Minister insisted on him to join the Cabinet led by Palaniswami, OPS said.
The deputy chief minister said he had conveyed the same to two of his cabinet colleagues from the Palaniswami camp prior to the merger, and that they also insisted on him to accept a minister's post.
"That is why I am a minister today. I have no desire to be a minister. Amma (Jayalalithaa) made me MLA four times and chief minister twice. That honour itself is enough for me," he told the gathering.
Panneerselvam took over as chief minister twice — in 2001 and later in 2014 — when Jayalalithaa was convicted in two different cases.
In 2014, Jayalalithaa and her confidante Sasikala were convicted in the Rs 66.66 crore disproportionate assets case.
Panneerselvam, who revolted against Sasikala and her family last year after allegedly being forced to make way for her elevation to the chief minister's post, charged that her family members tried to work for his defeat in the 2016 polls.
Sasikala, however, could not become the chief minister due to her conviction in the graft case.
(With Agency inputs)