Tamil Nadu ministers talk AIADMK merger, signalling possible patch-up between Sasikala and OPS

Arkadev Ghoshal
Tamil Nadu ministers talk AIADMK merger, signalling possible patch-up between Sasikala and OPS

The O Panneerselvam and Sasikala Natarajan-led factions of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) may merge to take the original form of the party. The possibility emerged ever-stronger after Tamil Nadu ministers had a round of talks late on the night of Monday, April 17. A decision on this will possibly be taken on Tuesday. 

The talks came just hours after an FIR was lodged against TTV Dinakaran — Sasikala's nephew who was to contest the RK Nagar by-elections on the ticket from the Sasikala faction of the AIADMK, formally known as the AIADMK Amma. This is the faction in power, with Edappadi Palaniswami as chief minister. 

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Dinakaran has been booked over allegations that he was trying to bribe Election Commission officials to give the AIADMK Amma faction the Two Leaves election symbol that the undivided party had under matriarch and party supremo J Jayalalithaa. After her death in December last year, infighting broke out within the party, and her successor as Tamil Nadu chief minister — O Panneerselvam, or OPS for short — was forced to resign. 

OPS was backed by several AIADMK leaders, including some prominent MPs. After he was shunted out of the party, he formed his own faction, called the AIADMK Puratchi Thalavai Amma. For the by-polls, both factions were given separate election symbols, but neither of them got the Two Leaves. 

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The by-polls were recently deferred after a huge cash-for-vote scam surfaced, putting several AIADMK Amma members, including health minister Vijaybaskar, under the scanner. The scam showed how much each faction of the AIADMK wanted to win the election. And after Dinakaran — through whom Sasikala has allegedly been running the party, even though she is in prison — was booked, the ruling faction is perhaps considering the option of joining hands with the OPS group. 

Since the AIADMK wants to retain this prestigious seat, with Dinakaran accused of bribery, it would be better to fall back on OPS — who enjoys popularity with the electorate — and his RK Nagar by-poll candidate E Madhusudanan, who was presidium chairman within the undivided AIADMK. Given that the other strong candidates are from the DMK and Jayalalithaa's niece Deepa Jayakumar, the fight would have been a strong one, with high risk of the AIADMK losing the seat. 

That is possibly why top leaders of the two factions met late on Monday night in Chennai and talked merger. A united AIADMK has all the chances of getting back the Two Leaves election symbol. "We appreciate OPS' offer to merge. We spoke about how to function if we merge," AIADMK leader D Jayakumar told reporters after the meeting. 

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