E Palaniswami's Camp To Take A Call On Merger Talks With OPS Today

O Panneerselvam's supporters refused to be drawn out on the issue of merger.

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The E Palaniswami camp presently enjoys a comfortable majority with 123 legislators.


Chennai:  The camp of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami will hold a meeting this evening to discuss two important issues - resuming the merger talks with the breakaway faction of O Panneerselvam and the possibility of joining the NDA government at the Centre, sources said. Mr Palainiswami's supporters played down both agendas, with Finance Minister D Jayakumar saying the meeting was "routine".

The BJP, which has a negligible presence in the state, has been trying hard to expand its footprint. The party's attempts to forge an alliance with the AIADMK over the last few years had fallen flat as former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had refused their overtures. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to Rameswaram, a growing warmth in the ties of the two parties were reflected in their flags that dotted the sides of the highway.  

Mr Jayakumar refused to answer questions on the possibility of a tie-up with the NDA, calling it an "assumption".  

Talks with the OPS camp, however, have been on "continuously", he admitted, adding, "I hope merger will be very soon".

Some office bearers of the party said a merger would preempt any move by TTV Dinakaran to resume his control over the party. Party chief VK Sasikala had chosen Mr Dinakaran, her nephew as her proxy before she went to jail in February. But after two short months, both were sidelined by the Chief Minister following demands from the OPS camp, which made it a pre-condition for a merger.

But the talks fell through after the OPS camp held onto their other demand -- an investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Jayalalithaa. Mr Panneerselvam, who had been the predecessor of Mr Palaniswami in the state's top post, then disbanded the committee formed to conduct the negotiations.

Today, Mr Panneerselvam's supporters refused to be drawn out on the issue of merger."They may do something to prevent Dinakaran's re-entry attempt. Let's wait and see. We shall respond after they announce this evening," said a senior member of the OPS camp.

The EPS camp presently enjoys a comfortable majority with 123 legislators. The OPS faction has the support of 10 legislators in the state assembly and a dozen parliamentarians.


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