- Attempts to reconcile by 2 factions of Tamil Nadu's ruling party
- Chief Minister E Palaniswami meets PM in Delhi
- Rival OPS to meet Election Commission, suggests divide is ending
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Chief Minister E Palaniswami or EPS met Prime Minister Narendra Modi today. Both camps of the AIADMK have reportedly been in touch with top leaders of the BJP as they try to find a way to work together. "I hope there will be a merger soon, but there are no talks yet," said a cautious Chief Minister after the meeting with the PM.
The BJP is reportedly keen on a reunited AIADMK because the party has in the past supported it on key policies and legislation and is seen as friendly to the centre.
OPS and EPS are expected to meet over the weekend in Chennai. Both allegedly want to be Chief Minister; as a compromise, said sources, OPS and his team may be given important ministries, while EPS remains in office.
Till December, the AIADMK was led by the powerful and charismatic J Jayalalithaa. She died in December while she was still in hospital. OPS, who filled in thrice for her while she was alive, was named her replacement.
That decision was taken by VK Sasikala, who was Ms Jayalalithaa's closest aide. The women lived together. Ms Sasikala in February decided she should become Chief Minister herself and forced OPS to quit.
However, she was then convicted by the Supreme Court in a case that charged Ms Jayalalithaa and her with corruption and was sentenced to four years in hail. Before her incarceration, she named EPS the new Chief Minister and her nephew, TTV Dhinakaran, the No 2 of the party.
These developments were unacceptable to OPS. He says that for a merger, EPS must agree to call for an investigation into how Ms Jayalalithaa died -his camp has alluded to her being poisoned, a charge denied by her doctors. OPS also wants Ms Sasikala and her nephew to be expelled by the party.
Yesterday, EPS and senior ministers met and virtually agreed to do that. They decided Ms Sasikala's appointment as the party's top leader or General Secretary was "temporary, till the election of a new chief". The group also concluded that the appointment of her nephew as her deputy was illegal.
A merger will also mean a quick and easy resolution to the fight between the two camps over rights to the party's name and symbol, especially before the local body elections due in a few months in Tamil Nadu. OPS will meet the Election Commission today to point out that EPS has moved to sideline Ms Sasikala and her nephew, suggesting that the division in the party is now fading.
The merger talks were fast-tracked when Mr Dhinakaran tried to assert his position by naming his loyalists as party office-bearers recently.