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Day after tiff, OPS skips Palaniswami's Covid meet

Source: PTI
September 29, 2020 16:34 IST
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AIADMK coordinator and Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam was closeted with a section of leaders on Tuesday, skipping a meeting chaired by Chief Minister K Palaniswami on Covid-19, a day after the two crossed swords over who should lead the party in the 2021 assembly elections.

IMAGE: Supporters of AIADMK coordinator and Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam sport his face mask outside the party office during the executive committee meeting in Chennai on September 28, 2020. Photograph: ANI Photo.

Triggering speculation about the probability of a fresh bout of bickering, the meet at the Greenways Road residence of Panneerselvam in Chennai was attended by senior leaders, including deputy coordinator K P Munusamy and Rajya Sabha MP, R Vaithilingam.


However, Vaithilingam, also a party deputy coordinator, told waiting mediapersons later that "there is no political significance to the meeting."

Asked on the choice of Chief Ministerial candidate for the next year elections, he said: "Let us see on October 7," adding, "There is no confusion" on the matter and AIADMK would "recapture power".

After a stormy AIADMK executive meeting on Monday where the issue of leadership for the polls was discussed, Munusamy had announced Panneerselvam and Palaniswami, joint-coordinator of the party, would announce on October 7 the chief ministerial candidate.

The executive committee meet in Chennai saw heated exchanges between Panneerselvam and Palaniswami over who should be the chief ministerial face of the AIADMK for the assembly elections next year.

Vaithilingam on Tuesday said he supported both Panneerselvam and Palaniswami considering the party’s interests.

The former minister in the late J Jayalalithaa's cabinet said his goal "is to see the party retain power next year" by further strengthening the AIADMK.

Munusamy too said not much should be read into the consultations which were only about routine "party work."

During the split in the AIADMK, Vaithilingam and Munusamy were with the factions led by Palaniswami and Panneerselvam respectively. The two factions merged in 2017 following which Panneerselvam was made deputy chief minister.

Panneerselvam's impromptu meet with party senior office-bearers and his absence at a meeting of district collectors on coronavirus pandemic chaired by Palaniswami at the secretariat set off speculation of further escalation of the situation.

 Panneerselvam had taken part in such meetings held by Palaniswami in the past.

Meanwhile, senior leader and Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar, when asked about the rival claims at the executive committee meeting, said it was nothing but "healthy exchange" of views.

"Let us wait and see on October 7," he told reporters on the sidelines of an event.

Asked if the release of V K Sasikala, former aide of late party supremo Jayalalithaa, was discussed at the executive Jayakumar shot back: "It was an unnecessary subject. Why should it be discussed at the meet?"

Sasikala was sentenced to four years imprisonment in a disproportionate assets case by the Supreme Court in February, 2017.

Former Information Technology Minister M Manikandan, who was dropped from the Cabinet last year by Palaniswami, and former MP, P H Manoj Pandian, were also present at Panneerselvam's residence on Tuesday.

At the executive, Pandian had taken the stand that Palaniswami and Panneerselvam were like the "Two Leaves" symbol of the party (to denote togetherness and unity).

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