The Election Commission on Thursday allotted the 'two leaves' symbol to the unified All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam, dealing a blow to the Sasikala faction.
The EC said the EPS-OPS group "enjoys the support of majority of members, both in the organisational and legislature wings of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam".
The order of the commission is a setback to deposed party leader V K Sasikala, who is currently serving a four-year sentence in a Bengaluru jail in a disproportionate assets case, and her nephew and sidelined deputy general secretary T T V Dinakaran.
The EC said the "said group led by E Madhusudhanan and others is hereby recognised...as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which is a recognised state party in the state of Tamil Nadu and in the Union territory of Puducherry, for whom the symbol 'two leaves' is reserved in the said state and Union territory."
In Chennai, Palaniswami described the development as the happiest day for the party. Celebrations broke out at the party headquarters with AIADMK workers bursting crackers and distributing sweets.
The issue has been lingering since April in the aftermath of the announcement of bypoll to RK Nagar assembly constituency here following the death of AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa in December last year.
Rival factions then led by Sasikala and Panneerselvam respectively had staked claim over the symbol. Edappadi K Palaniswami was then in the Sasikala camp.
In an interim order in March this year, the commission barred the two factions from using the party's name or its two leaves symbol in the bypoll.
Later, a large number of legislators led by Palaniswami revolted against Sasikala, who is in jail in a disproportionate assets case, and announced the merger of the two factions.
The EPS-OPS camp then submitted affidavits before the EC staking claim over the party name and symbol, which was contested by Sasikala-Dinakaran camp.
The commission on Thursday said its interim order freezing the symbol stands "withdrawn and rescinded" and that order will no longer be operative for any purposes.
Will challenge EC order on AIADMK symbol in SC: Dinakaran
Dinakaran said his faction would move the Supreme Court against the Election Commission's ruling.
He alleged that the EC acted in a partisan manner and according to the centre's wish while deciding the row over two-leaves party symbol.
"The xommission did not act neutrally. We will approach the Supreme Court against its order... The ruling confirms that the EC functioned in accordance with the centre's wish...the centre's hand can be seen, centre's intervention is there," he alleged.
Stating that the EC has allotted the symbol to the EPS-OPS faction on the ground they now had the support of 111 MLAs and 42 MPs, he asked why the same rationale was not followed earlier when the then Sasikala group had the backing of 122 MLAs and 37 MPs.
Without considering this, the EC was 'keen' on blocking the symbol. There can be "no better example to show that the Election Commission did not act neutrally in the matter," he charged.
Palaniswami was with the Sasikala-Dinakaran faction then. In August, Palaniswami-Panneerselvam factions merged dumping Sasikala and her clan.
Dinakaran, whose appointment as deputy general secretary was annulled by the unified AIADMK, said the EC order had mentioned about the Sadiq Ali case decided by the Supreme Court in 1971.
He asked why the poll panel did not apply the rationale of that case when Panneerselvam approached the EC. "They conveniently forgot that judgment then," he added.
It may be recalled that the apex court had then given a ruling upholding, among other things, the power of commission to decide disputes amongst political parties or between splinter groups within a political party.
Dinakaran, however, said the Sadiq Ali case was not applicable to the AIADMK since primary members support had to be taken into consideration. This factor was not considered, he claimed.
Several AIADMK General Council members also petitioned the EC in person in the matter and when they sought to cross-examine the rival faction, the poll body said it will be considered later, he said.
However, rejection of their plea showed that the EC did not act neutrally, he alleged.
Dinakaran said they would fight legally and "victory will be ours... party cadres and people are with us."