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AIADMK unity bid hits hurdle over Sasikala

CHENNAI

Unity efforts in the AIADMK hit a roadblock on Tuesday after former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam sought the exit of the now jailed VK Sasikala and her family, and Chief Minister K Palaniswami said this was unacceptable.

A day after some AIADMK ministers initiated unity talks with the Panneerselvam faction, the former Chief Minister made it clear that there cannot be any unification if Sasikala and her family members remained party members.

Speaking in Perikulam in Theni district, about 520 km from here, Panneerselvam told the media: “Our stand is that Sasikala and her family members should not be in the party.”

He pointed out that both AIADMK founder, the late MG Ramachandran (MGR), and his successor the late J Jayalalithaa, who died on December 5, were against a family controlling the party. He said there was no change in his fundamental stance that the party and the government should not be under the control of one family.

The AIADMK split into two after Jayalalithaa’s death. One faction is led by the now jailed General Secretary Sasikala and the other by Panneerselvam.

According to Panneerselvam, MGR never involved his brother in party affairs when he founded the AIADMK and then ruled Tamil Nadu for a decade until his death in December 1987.

He said Jayalalithaa admitted only Sasikala into the party and none from the latter’s family.

The Sasikala faction hit back.

Chief Minister Palaniswami said if Panneerselvam placed such conditions, then unity talks cannot proceed further.

Sasikala faction legislator Vetrivel questioned how a group of ministers discussed a patch-up without the consent of party Deputy General Secretary TTV Dinakaran, a nephew of Sasikala.

He said in Chennai that the meeting of the ministers was “unofficial” and only those meetings held at the AIADMK office were “official”.

Efforts to unite the AIADMK factions picked up speed after Delhi Police filed a case against Dinakaran for trying to bribe the Election Commission to allot his faction the now frozen “two leaves” election symbol.

The Election Commission has also postponed the by-election to the state assembly from RK Nagar that was set for April 12 as it found that voters were bribed with cash. Dinakaran was the ruling AIADMK’s candidate.

Indo-Asian News Service