Saturday, August 13, 2022

AIADMK picks Palaniswami as interim chief; expels Panneerselvam

The AIADMK on Monday elected Edappady K Palaniswami as its interim General Secretary abolishing the dual leadership model in the main opposition party in Tamil Nadu, and also expelled O Panneerselvam from the party’s primary membership for allegedly acting against its interests.
A meeting of the AIADMK’s General Council(GC) picked Palaniswami, 68, as its supreme leader and vested in him full powers amid a prolonged internal power struggle shortly after the Madras High Court rejected Panneerselvam’s plea to stay the meeting of the rival faction. A single judge held that the courts will certainly refrain from interfering with the private affairs of the party.
Ahead of the GC meeting in a marriage hall, violence involving the supporters of Palaniswami(EPS) and Panneerselvam(OPS), who are bitter rivals, broke out in and around the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai after which the premises was sealed by authorities. Some people also reportedly sustained injuries.
The AIADMK, which endorsed a resolution scrapping the erstwhile top two positions of Coordinator and Joint Coordinator held by Panneerselvam and Palaniswami respectively, has strived hard to maintain unity after the death of its supremo and chief minister Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016. In a counter move, Panneerselvam “expelled” Palaniswamy from the primary membership party.
Both Palaniswami and the 71-year-old Panneerselvam are former chief ministers. Panneerselvam had also stood in for Jayalalithaa as chief minister on three occasions and was a trusted loyalist of the late leader.
The AIADMK also formally resolved to hold organisational polls in four months to elect a General Secretary. It has amended several bylaws which includes fresh norms and prerequisites to fight for the top party post.
Justice Krishnan Ramaswamy delivered the verdict which allowed the EPS faction to hold the meeting of the GC, the supreme decision making body of the AIADMK. The court also indicted Panneerselvam for knocking the doors of the court very often.
In the present case, the applicants had been knocking the doors of courts of law by making their best efforts to use the courts as tools for their convenience to come to their rescue, who are not in a position to gain confidence or support from among the party members in their favour, it said.
“What the applicant could not achieve, wants to achieve through court of law and the courts will certainly refrain from interfering with the private affairs of the party, that too at the instance of just one or two members contrary to the interests of thousands of other members of the party.”
The ruling DMK stands to electorally gain to a significant extent and the BJP, though now on the fringes, could aspire to get more electoral space in the wake of the churning in the AIADMK.
Although a huge chunk of party workers and office-bearers are apparently with the dominant leader Palaniswami, ousted figurehead Panneerselvam does have a clout among sections of party workers in select regions of Tamil Nadu.
At the same time V K Sasikala, confidante of Jayalalithaa, is staking claim to the late leader’s legacy. Dramatically, she declared that both Panneerselvam and Palaniswami were mere ‘shadows’ while she is the ‘truth’, meaning she is the real leader. In his speech at the party meet, Palaniswami said the unitary leadership was in response to the will of the party workers and people even as “we were pushed to protect” AIADMK with such a step.
He also launched a blistering criticism of OPS, calling him ‘selfish’ and alleged that the former party Coordinator orchestrated the attack on the AIADMK headquarters in collusion with the ruling DMK. The DMK dismissed the charges, saying it had nothing to with the affairs of the opposition party.
The party expelled Panneerselvam from his post of treasurer and primary membership. It also expelled his supporters, R Vaithilingam, P H Manoj Pandian–both legislators and ex-MLA JCD Prabakar.
Amid a big round of applause from the GC members, a special resolution moved by senior leader Natham R Viswanathan to remove Panneerselvam and his supporters was adopted unanimously.
The resolution accused Panneerselvam of siding with the DMK regime and having ties with the ruling party leaders and working to weaken the AIADMK. OPS acted against the party interests, its goals and principles, it alleged, claiming that he took steps including approaching the police to stall the June 23 General Council meet, which was jointly convened by him along with Palaniswami.
Panneerselvam told reporters he was elected as Coordinator by “1.5 crore” party workers and that neither Palaniswami nor another leader K P Munusamy had the right to expel him.
Condemning the two for expelling him “unilaterally” and against party rules, Panneerselvam said, “I expel them from primary membership (of the AIADMK)”.
Responding to reporters’ queries on the next course of action, the former chief minister said he would approach the courts with the support of party workers and secure justice.
Supporters of EPS and OPS factions carrying AIADMK flags clashed with each other with TV visuals showing some persons hurling stones at each other and some damaging vehicles parked nearby. Some men were seen forcing their way into the party office by breaking open the doors.
Security was also beefed up at the AIADMK office, MGR Maaligai, named after party founder, the late Chief Minister M G Ramachandran.
Jayalalithaa had helmed the party for decades as its powerful general secretary while Sasikala was made interim general secretary for a brief period following the death of the actor-turned politician.
Sasikala, who was later convicted and sentenced in a disproportionate assets case, was subsequently sacked from the post in 2017 by a then AIADMK GC.


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