Leader of rival All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam faction O Panneerslevam on Tuesday again voiced his opposition to party chief V K Sasikala, saying their ‘basic principle’ was that the party and government should not be in the hands of a family.
Panneerselvam, expelled by Sasikala following his revolt against her in February this year, also remained firm on his faction's demand for a probe into late J Jayalalithaa’s death.
His statement came as the ruling AIADMK (Amma) faction announced constitution of a team to hold talks with his camp on the issue of a possible patch up.
Senior leader in the V K Sasikala faction and Cooperation Minister Sellur K Raju said Chief Minister K Palaniswami has constituted a team of ‘senior ministers’ for the purpose.
"The chances of the panel holding talks are high," Raju told a Tamil TV Channel.
Meanwhile, sources in the Panneerselvam camp said it will join for talks the rival faction only if the ‘Sasikala family is ousted from AIADMK’, a day after several ministers met in Chennai to discuss modalities of a possible merger between the rival factions.
Though, on Twitter, they expressed willingness to hold talks with the AIADMK (Amma) faction.
‘The AIADMK (Amma) faction has constituted a team to hold talks. We are ready to hold consultations with that team if it meets us,’ the twitter handle, @OfficeofOPS, said.
The former chief minister claimed that Sasikala was appointed general secretary following Jayalalithaa’s death in ‘contravention’ of party laws as a chief has to be elected.
His faction, which has challenged before the Election Commission Sasikala’s elevation as general secretary, had submitted a petition to the EC on Monday, seeking a ruling based on the party laws, Panneerselvam said.
"Our founder MGR (MG Ramachandran) and Amma (Jayalalithaa) created this party as one for the people and the cadre and this is a democratic organisation. If we don't follow this path then it shall be an injustice to the people," he said.
"This is our basic principle. AIADMK should continue on this democratic path laid out by MGR and Amma," he said.
Panneerselvam said Sasikala and members of her family had been earlier expelled from the party by Jayalalithaa although Sasikala returned after issuing a letter of apology and assuring her that she would not seek any party post.
"The party and government should not be in the hands of a family. MGR did not even allow his brother (in party affairs). The party and government should not be in the control of a family as people will hate such a system," he added.
Accusing AIADMK (Amma) faction leader T T V Dhinakaran of committing ‘irregularities’ in the run up to the now cancelled April 12 RK Nagar assembly bypoll, he alleged that voters were paid cash by his camp.
He referred to the April 7 Income Tax raids at the premises of Health Minister C Vijayabaskar and the Delhi Police booking Dhinakaran for allegedly trying to bribe an Election Commission official to retain ‘two leaves’, a symbol both factions have been staking claim to.
"The middleman (Sukesh Chandrasekar) was caught through central intelligence. So we have been insisting that the (Sasikala) family to which we are opposed, had indulged in activities bringing disrepute to Tamil Nadu," he said.
On the issue of probe into the treatment and death of Jayalalithaa, Panneerselvam said they would not rest ‘till there is a judicial probe’, a demand raised by the faction.
"We have undertaken a dharma yudh. And it is our basic duty to uncover the mystery behind Amma’s death," he added.
AIADMK (Amma) presidium chairman and Higher Education Minister K A Sengottaiyan said the chief minister has stressed for unity in taking the ruling AIADMK and its government forward.
Informal meetings reportedly continued between the rival factions over a possible merger.
A day after several ministers discussed the modalities of a merger, placing the focus on redeeming the party’s frozen ‘two leaves’ symbol, Sengottaiyan held discussions with Palaniswami.
"The chief minister said all of us have to be united in taking the party and the government forward and that it should continue (through the rest of its term)," he said.
Palaniswami was not present during the meeting late on Monday night held by the ministers to discuss the modalities of a possible patch up with the Panneerselvam-led faction.
The chief minister also insisted that the party should win ‘when the elections are held again’, Sengottaiyan said.
According to party sources, MLAs from both factions were holding informal meetings over the possible merger issue.
An MLA from Sasikala camp, who was on board the INS Chennai, said there are likely to be formal meetings on the matter during the later part of the day.
Sengottaiyan also held discussions with Dinakaran.
While the next Lok Sabha polls are scheduled in 2019, the Tamil Nadu assembly elections are slated for 2021.
Sengottaiyan parried questions on reports of party chief Sasikala and Dinakaran quitting their respective posts.
He said talks between the two groups could take shape gradually, indicating that the possible merger process could take some time.
Some of the ministers had met at the residence of Electricity Minister P Thangamani on Monday night where they discussed the modalities of a patch-up.
The AIADMK suffered a vertical split on February 7 when Panneerselvam alleged that he was forced by Sasikala to make way for her elevation as the chief minister.
The two factions had since staked claim to the ‘two leaves’ symbol which the Election Commission subsequently froze.