Just days before its executive committee meeting on September 28, there is unrest in the AIADMK as the BJP, unsatisfied with the performance of the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, pushes for its merger with the faction of the ousted leader V K Sasikala.
Till a week ago, when a high-level meeting of the party was held, chief minister and AIADMK deputy coordinator Edappadi K Palaniswami had maintained that there would not be any talks with the rebel faction Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK).
However, in the wake of the decision to convene the executive committee meeting on September 28, both the chief minister and his deputy O Paneerselvam have been evading questions on Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran.
Sources confirmed that the BJP is pushing the AIADMK to hold merger talks with Sasikala after a survey of a political consultancy firm deputed by the ruling party pointed to a cake-walk victory for the opposition, DMK.
“If we had to give victory to the DMK on a platter, why would we have propped up this government for so long?” asked a BJP functionary who did not want to be named. The BJP leader said the merger would bring in people of all castes together and there would not be much tussle inside the party over power.
While TTV Dhinakaran, the deputy coordinator of AMMK, has camped in Delhi to hold talks with top BJP leaders, AIADMK leaders in the state first want their differences with Sasikala and her group to be sorted out.
According to reports, Dhinakaran is said to have been demanding that his aunt be made the general secretary of the merged party and he also be given a key party post. However, sources in the AIADMK said it would create more trouble with current leaders as a party position is more powerful than a post in the government.
“Also, the party by-law now states that the signatures of the coordinator and deputy coordinator is necessary to validate that a candidate belongs to the party. Only then will the candidate be given the two-leaves symbol. So, giving up the leadership in favour of Sasikala may be problematic for Edappadi K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam,” a senior leader in the AIADMK said on the condition of anonymity.
He also said even the present by-law could be challenged as the previous by-law had not granted the powers to anyone in the party to change it without the approval of the general secretary.
“There is no clause on the functioning of the party without a general secretary. Since the election commission had no problem with the new by-law, we are just going with it,” the leader said.
Nobody from the AIADMK wants to admit that talks are being held for a merger, but AMMK treasurer Velmurugan dropped enough hints to suggest discussions are on. On Wednesday, he said the party would not hesitate to ally with the BJP and that it is in the process of “recovering” the AIADMK.
While the chief minister and deputy chief minister want whispers over the merger talks to stay low and many ministers evade direct questions about the talks, state fisheries minister D Jayakumar categorically denied reports of a likely merger of the party with the VK Sasikala. He, however, did not elaborate.