OPS camp wants EC to conduct AIADMK’s internal poll

O Panneerselvam faction stakes claim to AIADMK’s ‘two leaves’ symbol as the fight for Jayalalithaa’s legacy intensifies as RK Nagar bypoll is slated for April 12

Photo by Pramod Pushkarna/National Herald
Photo by Pramod Pushkarna/National Herald

NH Political Bureau

While contending that the appointment of VK Sasikala as AIADMK general secretary was null and void, the AIADMK faction led by former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam (OPS) on March 15 asked the Election Commission to supervise and conduct the party’s general secretary elections. A nine-member delegation led by OPS, which met the poll panel officials in New Delhi, also staked claim to AIADMK’s ‘two leaves’ symbol.

“VK Sasikala was appointed as interim party general secretary, and not elected as per the party’s constitution. Her appointment should be declared null and void. We have explained to the EC the circumstances under which Sasikala was appointed to that post,” said OPS, meeting the press later at Rajya Sabha member V Maitreyan’s residence.

“We requested the EC to conduct the party’s general secretary polls so that the party cadre can be assured of a free and fair process,” said OPS. He further explained that as per the AIADMK’s bylaw, Sasikala didn’t have the power to appoint and expel members of the party.

Sasikala had expelled OPS and other rebels from the party and had also appointed her nephew TTV Dinakaran as the ‘deputy general secretary’ when she was convicted in the disproportionate assets case and jailed her for five years. OPS said that there was no post called a ‘deputy general secretary’ as per the party’s constitution, and this was raised with the poll panel.

The Paneerselvam camp had earlier filed a petition to the EC against Sasikala’s election as party general secretary, which was challenged by the latter. The poll body sought further replies from the OPS faction by March 14.

“When she herself was expelled from the party for five years, how could she be elected as the general secretary? The party constitution says that due to unforeseen circumstances if the general secretary post lies vacant, the second seniormost person is elected to the post,” OPS said. However, OPS apparently had not objected to Sasikala’s elevation to the party post but rebelled only after she wanted to take over as CM as well.

The fight for Jayalalithaa’s legacy

The latest move by the OPS camp comes as the fight for Jayalalithaa’s legacy intensifies, with the bypoll for RK Nagar assembly—that was represented by the late CM—slated for April 12. The rival AIADMK faction has already fielded Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dinakaran, while the DMK has fielded N Maruthu Ganesh. The OPS camp is expected to back Deepa Jayakumar, Jayalalithaa’s niece, who had announced earlier that she would be contesting from RK Nagar. The result would be declared on April 15.

With the EC not having supervised or conducted any party internal election hitherto, when asked under what provision the OPS faction made that request to the EC, Maitreyan said that this was an “extraordinary situation”.

“There is no provision for the EC to supervise and conduct any party’s internal polls; the poll body will respond to the request accordingly,” said Subhash Kashyap, Constitution expert and former Secretary General of the Lok Sabha.

Political observers though feel that much would depend on whether the OPS faction gets the official party symbol of ‘two leaves’, and also whether Sasikala’s appointment as general secretary would be declared as null and void. It would then change the political dynamics and make the Edappadi K Palaniswami government unstable. Sasikala loyalist Palaniswami had easily won a trust vote on February 28 with 122 legislators backing him and 11 opposed—this, though, was after the Speaker had evicted the main Opposition DMK and other Opposition parties walked out.

Though OPS falls very short in the numbers game when it comes to legislators, he is said to be popular with the party cadre. The faction is hoping for a favourable EC decision to “take the party back”. In the meanwhile, however, much depends on whether Dinakaran will win or lose on April 14. The last is yet to be said on the AIADMK imbroglio.

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