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"People's aspirations have been fulfilled by the CM. I hope now brother OPS comes to us and we work together," senior AIADMK leader M Thambidurai told NDTV. Ma Foi Pandiarajan, a senior leader of the OPS camp welcomed the probe panel and said: "A major obstacle for merger talks has been removed."
The legislators and key leaders of Mr Panneerselvam's camp will meet at his home at 5 pm on Friday to discuss their stand on the merger.
After many attempts over the months, merger moves were seen to receive a booster shot when Mr Palaniswami or "EPS", and OPS, came to Delhi for the oath ceremony of Venkaiah Naidu as the country's Vice-President and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, separately. The BJP is believed to be invested in a reunited AIADMK, which has in the past supported it on key policies and legislation and is seen as friendly to the centre.
The issue of merger also acquired urgency after sidelined leader TTV Dhinakaran's recent show of strength in Madurai. The 20 legislators he had could potentially bring down the EPS government, which has just six lawmakers over the simple majority.
Former Chief Minister Ms Jayalalithaa led the AIADMK till she died in December after months in hospital. OPS - always her choice of stand-in when she was alive - was named her replacement by Ms Jayalalithaa's closest aide VK Sasikala.
But Ms Sasikala in February decided she should become Chief Minister herself and forced OPS to quit, triggering a split in the party. Her takeover plan collapsed when she was convicted by the Supreme Court for corruption and sentenced to four years in jail. Before going to jail, she named EPS the new Chief Minister and her nephew, TTV Dhinakaran, the No 2 of the party.
OPS had said that for a reunion, EPS must agree to set up an investigation into how Ms Jayalalithaa died; his camp has suggested that she was poisoned, a charge denied by her doctors. That the party should expel Ms Sasikala and her nephew was the OPS faction's other major rider. Though the party declared Mr Dhinakaran's party post illegal last week, effectively sidelining him, there is no word on Ms Sasikala from EPS, who has been seen in a video falling at her feet.
Sources say that can become a big hurdle for the merger if the rebel camp chooses to hold out over its demand for top posts in the party and the government for OPS.
A retired judge will probe Jayalalithaa's death. Mr Palaniswami also announced that Ms Jayalalithaa's sprawling Poes Garden home -- which she shared with Ms Sasikala for years -- will be turned into a public memorial for her.
A merger will also wrap up smoothly 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.
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