AIADMK puts up show of unity on Jaya anniversary with Sasikala factor casting a shadow

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Chennai,Feb 24 (PTI) The ruling AIADMK put up a united front on party icon J Jayalalithaa's birth anniversary celebrations on Wednesday with leaders lighting lamps symbolising loyalty to the party, in an apparent bid to keep the flock together and wary of the V K Sasikala factor in a crucial election year.

Led by Chief Minister K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, Ministers, MLAs, MPs, office-bearers and cadres lit traditional lamps in their respective residences in the evening and took a pledge to guard the people and party in 'Amma's path.

Thousands of party cadres lit lamps across Tamil Nadu as they remembered their iconic leader.

The symbolism assumes significance in the wake of expelled leader Sasikala's (confidante of Jayalalithaa) return to Tamil Nadu from Karnataka,and her nephew and AMMK leader T T V Dhinakaran's stand on retrieving the AIADMK.

Palaniswami and Panneerselvam, in an apparent message of unity at the level of top leadership, exchanged 'cakes' after cutting a massive 73-kg cake at the party headquartes.

Though there had been claims of discord among the top two leaders, such claims were dismissed as false by the party.

The two leaders together presided over several events organised as part of the anniversary celebrations like an 'Annadhanam' (mass feeding) and medical camp here.

Coinciding with the anniversary fete, the party began the exercise of receiving applications for party tickets from aspirants.

Palaniswami submitted an application to contest from Edappadi segment, Panneerselvam from Bodinayakanur, party spokesperson R M Babumurugavel said.

Electricity Minister P Thangamani filed papers seeking to fight from Komarapalayam and Local Administration Minister S P Velumani from Thondamuthur, the spokesperson said,adding he has sought an opportunity to contest from Aarani.

Palaniswami, marking the commencement of observance of Jayalalithaa's birth anniversary as state event from this year, garlanded her statue along with his cabinet colleagues here and unveiled a museum and a knowledge park in the Phonenix themed memorial of Jayalalithaa at the Marina beach.

Also, he launched an initiative to plant 73-lakh saplings across the state marking the 73rd anniversary celebrations.

Sasikala, who recently returned here after completing her prison term in the assets case, today signalled the possibility of a truce with AIADMK ahead of Assembly elections likely in April. The ruling party leader D Jayakumar however ruled out scope for any patch-up. PTI VGN BN BN BN