'First Victory,' Says O Panneerselvam, As VK Sasikala Is Sidelined By AIADMK

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'First Victory,' Says O Panneerselvam, As VK Sasikala Is Sidelined By AIADMK

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After Sasikala, TTV Dinakaran's exit from AIADMK, O Panneerselvam says first step in fight for justice

Chennai:  O Panneerselvam has described as the "first victory in our dharam yudh (crusade)", the decision that VK Sasikala and TTV Dinakaran will be kept out of Tamil Nadu's ruling party the AIADMK. Last night's decision by several senior ministers clears the way for two rival factions of the party to begin merger talks.

The next step, former chief minister Panneerselvam said, is a meeting with Ms Sasikala's faction which has revolted against her. Ms Sasikala, appointed AIADMK chief a few months ago, is serving time in a Bengaluru prison for corruption; her nephew and deputy Mr Dinakaran said today that he has "no regrets over being sidelined" by his colleagues.

Mr Dinakaran called off a meeting of party legislators today and said he had "stepped aside" himself in the "interest of the party and government." He reiterated that he welcomes a merger of the two rival factions.

The eviction from the party of Ms Sasikala and her family was the most immediate condition laid down by the O Panneerselvam camp for any talks on re-uniting the AIADMk, which split weeks after the death of former chief minster J Jayalalithaa in December. As they hold talks now, other important issues will come need to sorted.

For one, who will be chief minister. O Panneerselvam or OPS's camp is clear that he must return to the post that he was forced to quit by Ms Sasikala earlier this year as she prepared to take over also as chief minister. Those plans were halted by the Supreme Court handing her a prison term and before she left Chennai, Ms Sasikala ensured that her proxy E Palaniswamy became chief minister. She also appointed Mr Dinakaran as deputy chief of the AIADMK.   

Mr Palaniswamy proved that he had the support of many more AIADMK legislators than Mr Pannerselvam did, to take over as Chief Minister in February. His supporters now want him be retained in the post. Their offer is the post of party chief to Mr Panneerselvam in place of Ms Sasikala.

But the OPS camp wants Mr Panneerselvam to be both chief minister and chief of a re-united AIADMK. They also want the post of AIADMK presidium chairperson to be returned to veteran leader E Madhusudanan, who was fired by Ms Sasikala earlier this year.  They suggest that E Palaniswamy can be deputy chief minister.

Both sides have so far not budged from their positions.

VK Sasikala was Ms Jayalalithaa's closest companion for 30 years and after her death appropriated control of the party. Her move to bring in Mr Dinakaran and other family members, expelled from the party years ago by Ms Jayalalithaa, has been called a "betrayal of Amma" by Mr Panneerselvam, who appealed to the Election Commission against Ms Sasikala's appointment as party general secretary and also challenged her faction for the party's Two-Leaf symbol, claiming that his faction is the "real AIADMK."

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