Panneerselvam heckled, walks out of key AIADMK meet
The power tussle within the AIADMK between O Panneerselvam, or OPS, and his rival-turned-ally-turned-adversary Edappadi K Palaniswami, or EPS, reached a crescendo on Thursday as the party’s general council meeting was marred by unruly scenes, loud sloganeering, and a plastic bottle hurled at coordinator OPS allegedly by members of the EPS camp.
The meeting, which came hours after a division bench of the Madras high court early on Thursday restrained the party from taking any decision on unitary leadership, rejected all 23 resolutions on the agenda.
The division bench was hearing an appeal against the refusal by a single bench to restrain the AIADMK from amending its by-laws at the meeting -- a move that could have paved the way for EPS becoming the only leader of the party.
Former chief minister Palaniswami and three-time chief minister Panneerselvam have jointly led the party since former chief minister and AIADMK president J Jayalalithaa’s death in 2016. While the party initially had only one leader in the form of a general secretary, the new setup (of joint coordinators) was necessitated to bring together the EPS and OPS factions, and prevent expelled interim general secretary and close Jayalalithaa aide VK Sasikala and her family from re-entering the party.
In December last year, AIADMK even amended its constitution to elect the coordinator and joint-coordinator -- solidifying the positions of EPS and OPS to keep Sasikala away from the party.
However, amid EPS’s growing clout, OPS was seen as softening towards Sasikala in recent months. The rumblings began a week ago, when a few workers demanded the return to single leadership under EPS.
Thursday’s general council meeting began around 11.30am at Vanagaram, on the outskirts of Chennai, with EPS receiving a rousing welcome from his supporters amid chants favouring him as the leader of the party. OPS was seated close to EPS on the dais.
Amid the din, former minister CV Shanmugam announced that the council rejected all 23 resolutions. He also read a letter which he claimed was signed by 2,190 council members, seeking an end to the dual leadership. The letter, he added, said the dual leadership had made the party “directionless” and hampered its functioning.
AIADMK deputy coordinator KP Munusamy then said the 23 resolutions will be passed after the one for a unitary leadership is approved by the council.
As Tamilmagan Hussain, who was named as the party’s presidium chairman, announced that the next general council meeting on July 11 will discuss the unitary leadership issue, OPS and a few of his supporters staged a walkout. Slogans were chanted, and a plastic bottle was hurled at him while he was leaving the stage.
“It was half-an-hour of drama put up by those who are power hungry and greedy. It was totally undemocratic,” deputy coordinator and an OPS supporter R Vaithyalingam said.
The council is the party’s highest decision-making body and comprises 2,500 members.
“The dual leadership set-up has caused confusions within the party making it ineffective to take on the ruling DMK,” said Shanmugam, an EPS supporter who has been seeking a single leadership.