"This is not my decision as general secretary. This is a decision of AIADMK cadre," E Palaniswami said
In his first public remarks after the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) pulled the plug on its alliance with BJP, party chief Edappadi K Palaniswami has said the decision was "final" and that it was not his decision alone, but that of two crore party workers.
Addressing the media last night, Mr Palaniswami said, "Two crore party workers shared their sentiments in a consultative meeting. It was on that basis that AIADMK took the decision to exit the NDA."
"This is not my decision as the party's general secretary. This is a decision of the AIADMK cadre. When a resolution is adopted, that is final," he said. On what led to the break-up, the former Chief Minister said, "We were forced to support issues we don't agree due to alliance dharma. Now we face no such situation."
On what is on AIADMK's priority list for the 2024 general election, Mr Palaniswami said the focus is to fight for the rights of the people of Tamil Nadu.
"A few people are asking who is our Prime Minister candidate. In 2019, did Odisha CM, West Bengal CM, Kerala, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, did they face election by projecting their PM candidates? The way they faced elections to protect the state's rights, AIADMK will also protect Tamil Nadu people's rights. We will meet people and will ask for their votes. People are our masters," he said.
The AIADMK leader said the party will raise the voice of Tamil Nadu people in Parliament.
"We won on the votes of people from Tamil Nadu. In Parliament, we will be their voice. This is our ideology. In some way, if minority communities like Muslims and Christians face any problem, AIADMK will be the party that will give voice to them," Mr Palaniswami said.
The AIADMK last month ended its alliance with BJP amid a face-off over remarks by state BJP president K Annamalai.
Amid the political storm over DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin's remarks on Sanatana Dharma, Mr Annamalai had said former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, late CN Annadurai, had insulted Hinduism back in 1956 and had to apologise later.
This sparked a huge face-off with AIADMK. CN Annadurai was the political mentor of AIADMK founder and former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran and is a revered figure in the party.
AIADMK demanded that the state BJP chief apologise for his remarks. Mr Annamalai, whose statements have been seen as an attempt to carve a distinct political identity for the BJP, refused.
A meeting organised as a last-ditch attempt to save the tie-up did not yield desired results, as both sides remained adamant on their stand.
Mr Palaniswami's latest remarks have put to rest any speculation about the possibility of revival of ties ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
The AIADMK had suffered successive defeats in all elections it fought in alliance with the BJP, including the 2019 Lok Sabha and state polls the same year. Strains in the alliance were evident when the leaders of the two parties did not campaign together in the run-up to the bypoll in Erode earlier this year.
The AIADMK's big decision on its alliance with BJP also comes at a time when Mr Palaniswami has consolidated his position as the top leader of the party, six years after the death of former chief Minister and party supremo J Jayalalithaa.
O Panneerselvam, with whom Mr Palaniswami had shared the party's leadership, was expelled last year for anti-party activities.
Therefore, the 2024 polls would be an acid test for Mr Palaniswami's leadership and his decision to part ways with the BJP needs to be seen against this backdrop too.