(Eds: Adds Details) Chennai, Oct 7 (PTI) Incumbent Chief Minister K Palaniswami was on Wednesday named by the AIADMK as the party's Chief Ministerial candidate for the 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, ending a brewing crisis triggered by differences between him and his deputy O Panneerselvam over the leadership issue.
The two top leaders buried the hatchet and reached a workable understanding as AIADMK coordinator Panneerselvam himself announced the name of Palaniswami, while the latter declared constitution of a 11-member Steering Committee, acceding to a long pending demand of the former.
Ironing out differences in parleys over a week involving Ministers and party leaders, the twin announcements have removed intra-party roadblocks for the AIADMK in gearing up with gusto for the elections next year, expected to be held in April-May.
The present assembly's term would end on May 22 next year.
'I am happy to announce that our dear brother Palaniswami will be the victorious Chief Ministerial candidate of the AIADMK for the 2021 assembly elections,' said Panneerselvam, flanked by Palaniswami and other senior leaders at the party headquarters.
His announcement set off celebrations by jubilant party workers who burst crackers and distributed sweets at the party office and across the state.
The 66-year old Chief Minister, largely credited with deftly running the government in the post-Jayalalithaa era, vowed to work hard to make the party emerge victorious for a record third straight time in the assembly polls and thanked Panneerselvam, all other party leaders and cadres for the opportunity.
The AIADMK, which wrested power from DMK in 2011,was voted back to office in 2016 under its supremo Jayalalithaa, whose death months after the rare feat of back-to-back wins brought Palaniswami to the top position.
Palaniswami, joint coordinator of AIADMK, later went to Panneerselvam's residence here and and thanked him for proposing his name.
In a statement, Palaniswami said AIADMK testified that even a humble man from a farmer's family could rise to the office of Chief Minister through work.
In a veiled attack on arch rival DMK, he said there was no 'dynasty politics of a son succeeding father' in the AIADMK.
Recalling a popular song from party founder M G Ramachandran's yesteryear movie that underscored unity to secure victory, he appealed to party cadre to work unitedly with determination for AIADMK's 'historic win' the in 2021 polls.
The steering committee, which is expected to play a key role on important party matters, comprises six ministers and other office-bearers, seen as loyalists of Palaniswami and Panneerselvam respectively.
They are ministers Dindigul C Sreenivasan, P Thangamani, S P Velumani, D Jayakumar, C Ve Shanmugam and R Kamaraj, party organising secretaries, J C D Prabhakar, P H Manoj Panidan and P Mohan, former MP, R Gopalakrishnan and MLA K Manickam.
Later, Palaniswami and Panneerselvam, along with Ministers and party leaders, paid floral tributes at the memorials of late AIADMK icons M G Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa at the Marina beachfront.
It is a practice among Dravidian parties to pay homage at the memorials of leaders while taking important decisions.
Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar told reporters that rivals and betrayers had a wishful thinking of problems erupting in the party over the leadership issue so that they could derive political mileage and it has not happened.
He said the choice of the CM nominee and constitution of the panel was based on consultations and consensus.
During the days of AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran and later J Jayalalithaa, the duo remained the undisputed leaders who helmed both the party and the government and a question of CM nominee for the polls never came up.
This is the first time the party has announced a Chief Ministerial candidate in its nearly 50 year history, evidencing the strengthening of collective leadership that emerged following the death of Jayalalithaa in December, 2016.
The party's important executive powers are shared by Panneerselvam and Palaniswami.
The churning in AIADMK over the CM candidate began on August 10 with Minister for Cooperation Sellur K Raju saying that elected MLAs would choose the Chief Minister following the assembly elections next year if his party was voted to power again.
AIADMK leader and Minister K T Rajenthra Bhalaji contradicted his colleague and pitched for projecting Palaniswami as the Chief Ministerial candidate to emerge victorious in the next year polls.
Soon, one leader after the other began airing their views publicly and party deputy coordinator Munusamy, a confidant of Panneerselvam, said the AIADMK top leadership would take a decision on it.
A poster war later erupted with a section of partyworkers projecting Palaniswami for the top post and others rooting for Panneerselvam.
The September 28 AIADMK Executive Committee Meeting saw a verbal duel between the two top leaders over who should be the Chief Ministerial candidate and on setting up of the panel.
The party had then said its CM choice would be declared on October 7 and from that day the consultations began, amid reports that most of the MLAs favoured Palaniswami.
While Palaniswami became the Chief Minister months after the demise of Jayalalithaa, the factions led by him and Panneerselvam merged in August 2017, easing out V K Sasikala (Jayalalithaa's aide) and her kin from the party. PTI VGN ROH VS VS