The year long (2021-22) golden jubilee celebrations of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's founding began on Sunday, and it was marked by a renewed and an open attempt by V K Sasikala, confidante of late party supremo J Jayalalithaa, to get back control of the party by harping on 'unity' mantra.
Sasikala's strong pitch for joining forces for the sake of the 'party and people' was, however, rejected by the AIADMK, which reiterated that there is no place for her in the party.
She unfurled the AIADMK flag at the T Nagar memorial of party founder and late Chief Minister M G Ramachandran in Chennai and a plaque unveiled on the occasion addressed her as party 'general secretary,' which was strongly opposed by the main opposition party.
Recalling a didactic Tamil film song 'Kanpona Pokkiley' in a MGR flick, which cautions against choosing a path based on whims and fancies rather than wisdom and reason, Sasikala said, "you decide to whom this is applicable today."
Apparently, the message was to the AIADMK brass, steered by O Panneerselvam and K Palaniswami, both former Chief Ministers.
Addressing supporters at MGR's Ramapuram Garden residence in Chennai, Sasikala said had the party been in power in the golden jubilee year, it would have been a proud moment, in honour of both MGR and 'Amma.'
Ahead of the start of her prison term in 2017, she ensured that the AIADMK was in the saddle of power in Tamil Nadu, she said.
Recalling her announcement of staying away from politics ahead of the Assembly poll in April this year, she said she took that stand as she wanted the party to be not affected in any manner whatsoever.
"It is the responsibility of all of us to guard the party. The need of the hour is unity," she said adding the divisions among them facilitated 'our enemies,' seen as a pointer to arch rival DMK, which captured power in Tamil Nadu after a gap of 10 years.
Sasikala said that if attention was not paid to the welfare of the people, the party and cadres, "we will be thrown away, whatever top positions one may hold and all of us should realise this truth."
"For the sake of the party, the people and workers, this is the time to stand together."
In a symbolic gesture to press for what she termed "unity," she said she was addressing them at the Ramapuram house, which witnessed the unification of factions led by Jayalalithaa and MGR's wife Janaki Ammal, decades ago and later the AIADMK went on to capture power again in 1991.
Similarly, the followers of MGR and Jayalalithaa should join forces to usher in the AIADMK government again in Tamil Nadu with people's support, she said.
"We should come together and the party has to win, long live the AIADMK, let Tamil Nadu grow," Sasikala said as her supporters clapped and cheered.
Reacting to Sasikala's overtures, AIADMK senior leader D Jayakumar said she would not be taken back into the party. "No one can touch the AIADMK," he asserted.
Mocking at Sasikala, Jayakumar, referring to her supporters hailing her as 'revolutionary mother' wanted to know the kind of revolution she ushered in.
"What revolution has she done?" he asked adding all that she did was only for the sake of her family.
Be it cadres or the people, no one would ever accept her back into the AIADMK, he said.
Accusing Sasikala-led camp as "looters" he said she did no sacrifices for the party's sake and the AIADMK and people would never accept her or her relatives.
The party is united against her and she was eased out of the AIADMK years ago, he said.
Following that, the party came with a new organisational structure, comprising top posts of coordinator (O Panneerselvam) and co-coordinator (K Palaniswami) and decided that no one would be elevated to the position of general secretary, the numero uno post held by Amma.
"Amma is our permanent general secretary. Though she is not alive, she is guiding us," Jayakumar said.
Jayakumar sought to know why Sasikala did not visit the memorials of leaders MGR and Jayalalithaa though she returned in February from Bengaluru after serving a four year prison sentence.
She could not tolerate the golden jubilee celebrations of the party and the AIADMK suffered defeat in 1996 only because of her camp, he claimed.
On a plaque, declaring her as party chief, Jayakumar, also a former Minister said that she has no moral or legal right to use the AIADMK's name or flag or to claim that she is the party's general secretary.
"How can she become the general secretary merely by embossing her name in a plaque ?" he wondered adding the party would consider taking legal action.
The Election Commission and a court ruling made it amply clear that "we are the AIADMK and the party's two leaves symbol and the flag belongs to us," Jayakumar said.
Hence, Sasikala unilaterally claiming to be the party's chief went against the court verdict and EC's directives, he pointed out.
AIADMK top leaders Panneerselvam and Palaniswami presided over the inaugural of the year long golden jubilee celebrations at the party headquarters here.
They garlanded the statues of MGR and Jayalalithaa, distributed sweets and food to cadres and gave away Rs 15 lakh financial assistance to the kin (Rs 3 lakh to each of the five families) of five party workers who passed away recently.
A book of poems on late Jayalalithaa, authored by party office-bearer Sa Kalaipunithan and a compact disc of party's jubilee song were released by the top two leaders.
The AIADMK headquarters wore a festive look and cultural programmes were also held. The AIADMK, which held the reins of power for 30-plus years in Tamil Nadu was founded on October 17, 1972.