After what appeared to be a war of wills between the two leading factions led by O Panneerselvam and Edappadi K Palaniswami, the top-level committee of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) has decided to finalise within a week the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the 2021 Assembly elections. The announcement was made by AIADMK’s deputy coordinator KP Munusamy on Monday.
Munusamy, who was flanked by senior leaders KA Sengottaiyan, R Vaithilingam and SP Velumani, also said the executive committee passed as many as 15 resolutions.
Recently, the two top leaders had issued a gag order, asking the cadres and leaders not to air views publicly on the issue of chief ministerial candidate after divergent opinions emerged.
According to multiple sources, arguments "touched some discordant points" in the three-hour discussion held during the day. In the backdrop of VK Sasikala, the banished jailed aide of late J Jayalalithaa, trying to make a comeback in state politics, Panneerselvam (who is also known as OPS) and Palaniswami (EPS) spoke about who should be the party’s CM candidate for the upcoming assembly elections.
During the stormy times of early 2017, EPS had emerged as the candidate of choice as a stand-in chief minister after Sasikala was jailed for her conviction in the disproportionate assets case. While EPS had held the position for three years now, OPS has put forward his claims of being the candidate of choice, arguing that he was chosen by Jayalalithaa herself thrice when she was ill-disposed to be chief minister.
According to people present at the meeting, OPS said that EPS was the candidate of Sasikala, who is considered anathema to the former’s faction. EPS is said to have shot back saying OPS was made the chief minister by Sasikala after Jayalalithaa’s death.
EPS also flatly refused to set up the 11-member steering committee which has been one of the long-standing demands of OPS. Sources said OPS again placed the demand during Monday’s meeting, but the CM rejected the idea on grounds that it would lead to unnecessary favouritism among senior party leader leaders.
The meeting comes close on the heels on the main opposition party in the state, the DMK, having made its stand clear on the contentious farm bills passed recently in Parliament.
Earlier in the day, DMK president MK Stalin took to the streets in protest against the bills even as the CM and his deputy made their way to the party headquarters to clear alleged differences between the two camps.