Soon after BJP Tamil Nadu president Annamalai and national General Secretary CT Ravi called on AIADMK interim General Secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami, former Minister and AIADMK leader C Ponnaiyan on Friday hit out at the BJP ahead of the keenly watched by-poll in Tamil Nadu's Erode East assembly constituency. The party's pro-Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) faction leader took a jibe at the BJP, saying they are cautious with the national party.
"We have seen BJP topple governments of friendly parties," C Ponnaiyan said.
Mr Ponnaiyan's criticism comes after BJP's message to the two factions of the main opposition party in the state, asking them to work together for the by-poll.
However, BJP sources have played down the leader's remarks, saying they have a good rapport with AIADMK. Today, BJP state chief K Annamalai too did not take him seriously. "Earlier, he had disowned similar remarks," he added.
The BJP will not contest the bypoll, scheduled for February 27. Amid a tussle between AIADMK boss Edappadi K Palaniswami and his rival, expelled leader O Panneerselvam, the national party said it wants a single candidate from the key opposition party.
The BJP had, initially, strongly indicated it would contest, triggering a sense of unease in the AIADMK. In what is being seen as a strong message from EPS to the BJP, team EPS did not even carry pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi or BJP leaders in their campaign posters for a few hours on Thursday.
"Being a coalition, we are not contesting," Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai had said, adding they want a common AIADMK candidate as it would help the ruling DMK otherwise. Mr Annamalai said his party has requested O Panneerselvam to support Edappadi Palaniswami's candidate.
The EPS faction of the AIADMK has fielded KS Thennarasu as its candidate for the seat, while its OPS faction has fielded T Senthilmurugan from the same seat.
Extending its support to the EPS candidate, Tamil Nadu's BJP chief said they want someone who is well-known in the constituency to contest the election.
"A candidate who is well-known in the constituency, EPS candidate KS Thennarasu is a two-time MLA, and we want someone who will be the right person to win. We requested O Panneerselvam to also support the Edappadi Palaniswami's candidate," Mr Annamalai said, adding they won't interfere in the "interparty issue" but would prefer OPS to withdraw the name of the candidate from his faction.
The by-elections were necessitated in Erode (East) after the death of Congress leader Thiru E Thirumahan Everaa. His father, Congress leader EVKS Elangovan, is the DMK alliance's candidate.
February 7 is the last day to file nominations.
The BJP has for the first time openly admitted to making attempts to unite the AIADMK, which they earlier called their "internal matter".
This is EPS' first election after he became the only leader of the AIADMK. With Lok Sabha polls due in 2024, he has been sending strong signals to the BJP to stay in its lane.
The two leaves symbol of the AIADMK appeared elusive for this election as the expelled OPS is the party's boss in the Election Commission's records, and the matter is in the Supreme Court.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court ordered both factions to decide on a common candidate by sending a circular to the general council members. It had set aside OPS' expulsion, pending verdict.