Ending a months-long feud between the two warring top leaders of the AIADMK, the Madras High Court today rejected expelled leader O Panneerselvan's (OPS) challenge to AIADMK chief Edappadi K Palaniswami's elevation to the party's powerful General Secretary post. The party was then quick to formally announce EPS as its General Secretary, and celebrations broke out at the party headquarters.
Team OPS, which earlier hit out at Edappadi K Palaniswami, calling his move to file nomination for election to the party's top post a "pickpocket-like" approach, has now moved an appeal to a two-judge bench.
The court was hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the elevation of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, also addressed as EPS, as the AIADMK's interim general secretary by the party's general council in July last year.
The Supreme Court had last month greenflagged EPS' continuance as the interim chief, but left it to the Madras High Court to decide on the legality of the resolutions passed, and changes to the party by-laws, during the general council.
The organisational polls have to be held once in five years and the highest office is elected by primary members. Only the elected General Secretary can later conduct organisational polls and appoint functionaries. Further, membership forms have to be given during this period to include new members and renew membership for existing ones, following which identity cards have to be given for both, he said.
"The election to the top post will be held only after the completion of these processes. There is no due process, and they want to hold the election for the general secretary post like a pickpocket doing away (with one's purse). Is this acceptable?" OPS asked.
AIADMK's general council, its top decision-making body, had on July 11, 2022, expelled OPS, along with his supporters, for alleged anti-party activities.
OPS used to be seen as the political heir of late party chief J Jayalalithaa, while EPS enjoyed overwhelming support from party workers.
Jayalalithaa had twice hand-picked OPS to be her stand-in-chief minister when she had to step down following her conviction. Though OPS was elevated for the third time just before she died, Jayalalithaa's aide VK Sasikala, who briefly took over the party, replaced him with EPS after he rebelled against her.
However, in a sensational political twist, both leaders patched up and expelled Sasikala when she was in jail. OPS became the number one in the party and EPS his deputy. In the government, OPS became Chief Minister EPS' deputy.
After a series of electoral losses, EPS has said the model is not working while OPS desperately approached courts to retain power over the party.
The AIADMK suffered four consecutive losses under the dual leadership model since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, including the recent Erode (East) by-election where the DMK-led ruling coalition candidate, EVKS Elangovan of the Congress trumped Mr Palaniswami's pick KS Thennarasu by more than 66,000 votes.
The amendments made to the party's by-laws also have made it difficult for an ordinary party worker to aspire for the top job as party founder MGR envisioned. Seen as an attempt by EPS to keep his rival OPS away, only those candidates who get ten district secretaries to propose and another ten to second can file nomination.