The Family May Be Out But Distrust Within AIADMK Remains, Says OPS Camp Leader

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The Family May Be Out But Distrust Within AIADMK Remains, Says OPS Camp Leader

Talks for the merger of the two AIADMK factions could hit a trust barrier.

CHENNAI:  Jailed VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dinakaran's isolation within Tamil Nadu's ruling party may be the end of the family's political saga but the party's two factions still have some way to go before they can merge and recover the AIADMK's "two leaves" election symbol.

O Panneerselvam, the AIADMK leader who rebelled against Sasikala after she forced him to quit as Chief Minister, on Wednesday called the ruling party's decision to dump its chief and her nephew as the "first victory". It was Mr Panneerselvam, or OPS as he is called, who had insisted that he could only think about merging his smaller, but influential faction once the family is kept out.

Chief Minister E Palanisamy who was brought in to replace OPS by Sasikala after a Supreme Court verdict forced her to head to jail rather than the CM's house, decided to keep the Sasikala family away from the party and government at a meeting attended by many of his cabinet colleagues.

But there were hints on Wednesday evening that getting the ruling party to boot out Dinakaran might have been the easier part of the deal. The OPS group will hold a meeting with their lawmakers on Thursday to firm up its bargaining position at the negotiations for the merger.

"The process is far from over - it hasn't yet begun as there are still trust issues," the AIADMK's Lok Sabha member from Vellore B Senguttuvan told NDTV. Mr Senguttuvan was among the handful of lawmakers who had aligned with OPS after he rebelled in February.

The OPS camp wants Mr Panneerselvam to be both chief minister and lead the re-united AIADMK as well and return the post of AIADMK presidium chairperson to veteran leader E Madhusudanan, who was sacked by Ms Sasikala.  It has been suggested that that E Palaniswamy could be deputy chief minister.

"I personally want to see him back as CM," said another OPS loyalist, K Pandiarajan.

But it may be the end of the road for Dinakaran, who had once been expelled from the party by Ms Jayalalithaa. Six years later, Ms Jayalalithaa's friend turned successor Sasikala brought him back to lead the party while she served time at a Bengaluru court for corruption.

For now, Dinakaran isn't trying to fight back; he had convened a meeting of his lawmakers for Wednesday but had second thoughts about the plan. "I'm stepping aside... No political end game for me... only God knows my destiny," said TTV Dinakaran, hours before a Delhi Police team came knocking minutes before midnight to summon him. A 27-year-old alleged fixer caught with Rs 1.3 crore cash in a Delhi hotel had told the police the AIADMK deputy chief was paying him Rs 10 crore to bribe Election Commission officials to ensure his faction gets the party symbol, "two leaves" that was frozen by the poll body.

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