In AIADMK Power Tussle, A Huge Court Setback For E Palaniswami

E Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam are caught in a bitter tussle to control the AIADMK

The party will now be under joint leadership with O Panneerselvam as coordinator

Chennai:

In a setback for AIADMK leader E Palaniswami, the Madras High Court today ruled that his appointment as the party's general secretary is not valid. The ruling comes as a shot in the arm for O Panneerselvam, who is caught in a bitter power tussle with Mr Palaniswami.

On the issue of party leadership, the court has ordered a status quo as before June 23 -- this means that the party will be under joint leadership, with Mr Panneerselvam as coordinator and Mr Palaniswami as his deputy.

Mr Panneerselvam, known as OPS, had argued before the court that the general council meeting, in which Mr Palaniswami was elected general secretary, was illegal. He had contended that the meeting was called by Mr Palaniswami -- also called EPS -- in violation of the party bylaws that say such a meeting should be jointly convened.

Tamilmaran, counsel for OPS, told NDTV, "The appointment of EPS as interim general secretary becomes irrelevant. Both leaders ought to work together."

Asked if OPS would manage to win back the support of Mr EPS, who tried to get him expelled from the party, he replied, "He enjoys the support of the larger party cadre. They ought to work together to take on the DMK."

Welcoming the court ruling, OPS' son Raveendranath said, "It's a victory for the party cadre."

Manoj Pandian, an MLA from the OPS camp, said he is confident that the "leader will win the political battle in the AIADMK" as he had won the legal battle.

From the EPS camp, senior party leader D Jayakumar termed the court ruling only "a temporary victory".

In his submission before the high court, EPS had argued that he and OPS no longer held posts in the joint leadership as the general council meeting on June 23 had not ratified the election. He claimed that as headquarters secretary, he is empowered to call a meeting in the absence of leadership.

Late Chief Minister and AIADMK Chief Jayalalithaa had chosen OPS for the top post twice when she had to step down following court convictions. He was made the Chief Minister for a third time before Jayalalithaa's death.

But her close aide Sasikala, who headed the party for a short while after her death, handpicked EPS for the Chief Minister's chair. OPS had earlier rebelled against Sasikala's attempt to become Chief Minister before she went to jail in a disproportionate assets case in which Jayalalithaa was the prime accused.

When Sasikala was in prison in Bengaluru, then Chief Minister EPS patched up with OPS and expelled her from the party. Both leaders then evolved a dual leadership model. Accordingly, OPS became EPS' deputy in the government. In the party, OPS became the coordinator and EPS his deputy as joint coordinator.

Under the joint leadership, the AIADMK suffered three successive poll defeats -- in Lok Sabha polls, Assembly election and local body polls.

In his bid to take over the party leadership, EPS argued that decision-making was difficult under the dual leadership, and it's time the party had a supremo.

While the Madras High Court order comes as a timely relief for OPS, he still faces the challenge to win the support of the party's general council that expelled him.

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