There is no consensus in the AIADMK on a chief ministerial candidate for next year’s state polls yet. The party executive committee discussed the matter for over four hours in Chennai on Monday and later announced that the CM candidate will be declared on October 7.
The AIADMK factions — one led by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and the other by Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS) — were divided over two issues: finalising CM candidate and formation of a steering committee. Leaders considered close to jailed leader VK Sasikala i.e. the EPS faction, wanted the CM candidate to be finalized today itself, but the OPS faction was insistent on forming a steering committee consisting of 11 members to decide the CM nominee.
The EPS team suggested that instead of forming a steering committee, a separate group can be formed to administer the party. They could not come to a conclusion so the matter was postponed to October 7.
“The CM candidate will be announced by the party coordinator (OPS) and joint coordinator (EPS) on October 7. The top leaders and deputy coordinator KP Munusamy will arrive at a decision on who will be the next CM. There is no one else in the race except OPS and EPS,” said the party spokesperson V Pugazhenthi while speaking to Puthiya Thalaimurai.
Pugazhenthi said the likely early release of Sasikala from Bengaluru jail was discussed in the meeting, but it was decided that she will not be inducted in the party. Currently, Sasikala is serving a four-year jail for amassing assets disproportionate to her known income.
“Likewise, there is no idea to merge the party with Dhinakaran’s AMMK,” added Pugazhenthi.
The meeting was headed by E Mathusoothanan, presidium chairman and 284 members were invited to attend. However, 15 members were not admitted since they had symptoms of COVID-19.
The OPS and EPS factions had a heated argument as soon as the subject of finalizing CM candidate came up for discussion. Panneerselvam said that it was Jayalalithaa who made him the CM earlier and Edappadi K Palaniswami was put in the position by Sasikala. Chief Minister Palaniswami objected to this statement and said that both of them were anointed to the post of CM by Sasikala herself.
OPS is reported to have made it clear in the meeting that he accepted to be the Deputy CM only for this term, thus expressing his desire to become the CM again. To this, EPS asked if he (OPS) was not happy to see him as the CM? “Even the prime minister has appreciated the regime headed by me,” EPS claimed.
Political commentator Tharasu Shyam noted that KP Munusamy didn’t say the CM candidate will be of the AIADMK, but of the AIADMK alliance. “This means discussions on the chief ministerial candidate have not come to an end and it looks like they would bring in their alliance partners, the BJP and the PMK,” he said.
Shyam further pointed out that according to AIADMK’s bylaws, whatever is discussed and passed in executive committee meeting, is tabled before the general body and passed.
“That’s why AIADMK used to conduct their executive committee and general body meetings on the same day. However, this time there has been no word about the general body meeting. There may be another round of meeting after discussions with the alliance partners,” he said.
On what transpired at the executive committee meeting, party spokesperson Pugazhenthi said that time was not sufficient to decide the CM candidate. “Since it required one-on-one discussion between the top leaders, the matter has been left to them. The senior leaders, including assistant coordinators of the party, will discuss and will announce the decision on October 7,” he said.
Pugazhenthi was part of the AMMK led by sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran but later joined AIADMK. Asked if the issue of Sasikala’s return to the party was discussed, he said, “Nobody is sure if Sasikala would come back to politics, but we know that TTV Dhinakaran would not be reinstated for any reason,” Pugazhenthi said.