After the AIADMK merger, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his approval.
Chennai: Tamil Nadu's ruling party today abandoned its differences - or at least said it has - in an attempt to present a throwback to an older era, when it was a solid force grounded in its abject devotion to chief J Jayalalithaa, who died in December. Acknowledging "there are differences but we will work together," Chief Minister E Palaniswami shook hands with rival O Panneerselvam, who will now serve as his Deputy and No 2 in the government.
The combined strength of the reunited camps is about 134 lawmakers, barely 10 more than what's needed to win a trust vote. The AIADMK has agreed to OPS' insistence on expelling VK Sasikala, who is currently the party chief. She's in jail, but her nephew, TTV Dhinakaran, has the support of about 20 of the AIADMK's lawmakers - they met him today, though it's unclear if they would side with him in a conflict with their party, now that it stands reinforced.
There is the growing prospect of the AIADMK joining Prime Minister Narendra Modi's coalition government. The PM tweeted his approval of today's merger. He has not exactly been a disinterested party - he met with the leaders of both factions recently, telegraphing his party's interest in erasing the divisions within the regional party. The AIADMK has 37 Lok Sabha MPs and 13 in the Rajya Sabha - the latter will give the central government the majority it has been lacking in the Upper House. There is also talk of the BJP expressing interest in allying with the AIADMK for approaching local elections.
Signs of a cabinet reshuffle are lengthening - BJP chief Amit Shah cancelled a planned trip of Tamil Nadu today, and has met alone with a few union ministers. Sources in parties like the Shiv Sena, which is an ornery ally of the BJP, have talked of negotiations over new portfolios.
In Tamil Nadu, there is also increased focus on the likely next steps from superstars Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, both of whom have made clear their interest in joining politics. Today, Kamal Haasan derided the AIADMK merger on Twitter; for weeks, he has been castigating the state government over corruption.