O Panneerselvam wants Sasikala and her family removed from AIADMK for merger talks.
Chennai: The rival factions of Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK moved closer to a rapprochement today, with the faction led by VK Sasikala deciding to keep her and her nephew TTV Dinakaran away "from the government and the party". The decision meets the key demand of her political rival O Panneerselvam or OPS, who wanted their removal. Ms Sasikala, who is in prison in Bengaluru, heads the larger team that controls the government. For now, her faction will be steered by a committee. What remains to be worked out is whether E Palaniswamy will continue as the Chief Minister or he will be replaced by Mr Panneerselvam. Mr Dinakaran, who rushed back from Bengaluru, has called a meeting of legislators at the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai later today.
Here are the 10 latest developments in this big story:
Ms Sasikala will continue to lead the party on paper, since the Election Commission is examining the legality of her appointment. An expulsion will be possible only after the Commission comes to a decision, sources said.
"TTV Dinakaran and his family will be away from AIADMK and its government. The decision is unanimous and based on the views of all ministers including Chief Minister, MLAs, MPs, public. A panel will be formed for day-to-day functioning of AIADMK," said minister D Jayakumar after a meeting held at chief minister EK Palaniswami's residence this evening.
When Ms Jayalalithaa died as Chief Minister, her live-in aide, Ms Sasikala quickly appropriated control of the AIADMK, a manoeuvre that appeared to have the backing of all party leaders. The problem began after that - when she tried to become Chief Minister. Mr Panneerselvam, who was head of the government, refused to quit. Ms Sasikala's political plans took a big hit when the Supreme Court in February sentenced her to jail for corruption.
Ms Sasikala then installed E Palaniswamy as Chief Minister. Before heading for jail, Ms Sasikala made Mr Dinakaran, her nephew, the party No 2. She kept the rank of party chief for herself.
Ms Sasikala's group has about 120 legislators; it is the faction of the AIADMK that is in power. Mr Panneerselvam's rival bloc is far smaller, but includes senior leaders who disagreed with Ms Sasikala and family being given charge of the party.
Mr Panneerselvam today pointed out that Ms Jayalalithaa had expelled Ms Sasikala's relatives in 2012 for working against the party. Ms Sasikala had to disown her family publicly to re-enter the fold. He also demanded an investigation into Ms Jayalalithaa's death - his faction alleges that during her lengthy stay in hospital, the politician was prevented from meeting with party leaders by Ms Sasikala.
Ministers and AIADMK lawmakers from Ms Sasikala's group - the one that's governing Tamil Nadu - have rebelled after multiple corruption charges against Mr Dinakaran, which they fear are hurting the party. Meanwhile, a lookout notice has been put out against Mr Dinakaran on Wednesday morning, as the police is worried he may try to escape, say sources.
Mr Dinakaran decided in March to run for office from Ms Jayalalithaa's constituency. There was allegedly so much money being given to voters that the election, which was to take place last week, was cancelled by the Election Commission. Then, yesterday, the Delhi Police accused Mr Dinakaran of corruption and criminal conspiracy for allegedly deputing a 27-year-old to bribe Election Commission officials with up to Rs. 50 crore. The young "fixer", Sukash Chandrasekhar, has shared details with the police of Mr Dinakaran's alleged plans to "buy" the party symbol.
The two-leaf symbol has not been granted so far to either faction by the Election Commission. It is the best form of ID for the party among voters, so it a highly-prized asset. Both teams of the AIADMK have claimed it. The Commission will award it to whichever group it recognises as the "real" AIADMK. The other will be seen as a spin-off or breakaway faction.
A group of 10 ministers has been assigned to hold talks with the OPS faction for a merger. "We are brothers from the same family," said a minister, Sellur Raju, who is part of the negotiating team. The momentum for reconciliation picked up last evening when Mr Dinakaran was away from Chennai. He planned to meet his aunt, Ms Saikala, in jail, but was unable to do so, said sources.