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Edappadi Palaniswami poised to assume AIADMK leadership at the general council meeting of the party even as O. Panneerselvam’s last card fails

Print edition : Jun 22, 2022 T+T-

Edappadi Palaniswami poised to assume AIADMK leadership at the general council meeting of the party even as O. Panneerselvam’s last card fails

 Flex boards getting ready at Vanagaram  ahead of the AIADMIK general council meeting on June 23.

Flex boards getting ready at Vanagaram ahead of the AIADMIK general council meeting on June 23. | Photo Credit: VEDHAN M

The Madras High Court has refused to interfere in the internal mechanisms that govern a political party, effectively paving the way for former Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami to take over as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (AIADMK’s) undisputed leader at the general council meeting to be held on June 23.

On June 22, after a three-hour hearing, the Madras High Court allowed the general council meeting to go ahead, but said that it will decide if the supreme decision making body of the party can take up anything else except the 23 slated resolutions. The decision that it will not interfere in the conduct of the general council was pronounced later in the evening.

The leadership tussle that has been going on for over a fortnight between O. Panneerselvam (OPS) and Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS), the two former Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), spilled out into the open from the confines of the AIADMK headquarters and their supporters onto the streets and finally the courts over the past fortnight, even as it was clear that EPS enjoyed a clear majority within the general council of the party. The party’s general council is scheduled to meet on June 23 on the outskirts of Chennai.

“As many as 75 district secretaries met Edappadi in the past eight days and affirmed the need for one person leading the party,” said D. Jayakumar, former Minister and AIADMK senior politician. One AIADMK senior member said that of the 2,655 general council members, over 2,500 had pledged their support to EPS. Only 120 or so were with OPS. Most senior members of the party who were formerly with OPS, including Dr. V. Maithreyan, who was sidelined a few years ago, and former Minister MaFoi Pandiarajan, met EPS and pledged their support to him.

This was the reason why Team OPS tried every trick in the bag to stop the general council meeting from going head. OPS is yet to confirm if he would participate in the council meet. He literally started a Twitter war and claimed that the AIADMK was now being run in a dictatorial manner and asked the cadre not to indulge in any activity harmful to themselves because supporters of EPS were needlessly targeting him.

The one place that OPS has more following than EPS is on Twitter–OPS has 8.8 lakh followers to EPS’ 4.8 lakh followers. EPS’ timeline on Twitter has no reference to the general council or the issues within the party.

Jayakumar said: “OPS is making mistake after mistake…. I have to say painfully that he is travelling on a wrong path. He should also participate in the general council meeting.”

The final court battle

OPS had approached the court as a last-ditch effort to stop the general council meeting from going ahead and anointing his rival EPS as the sole leader (it could either be general secretary or president because an earlier AIADMK resolution had installed the late Jayalalithaa as the permanent general secretary of the party).

In his arguments, OPS told the court that he received 23 resolutions from the AIADMK headquarters via e-mail on June 21, and these were to be passed at the general council meeting on June 23. He was supposed to give his consent to these resolutions (since he was the party coordinator). He was inclined to do so if the EPS side was willing to agree that nothing other than the 23 resolutions will be taken up during the meeting. “I will not allow any new agenda…. I am not acting against the party Constitution,” G. Rajagopal, OPS’ senior counsel, told the court (OPS also had senior counsel Arvindh Pandian arguing his case).

The EPS side countered that even the creation of the post of coordinator (OPS) and joint coordinator (EPS) was done without circulating an agenda ahead of a general council meeting and, hence, other matters being taken up during the course of the general council was routine. EPS’ senior counsel Vijay Narayan said that he was not in a position to speculate on what would happen in the general council because there has been a tradition of members demanding that a particular matter be taken up. If one-fifth of the members demanded so again, it would be considered by the body, he added.

OPS made it clear that in a post-Jayalalithaa scenario, one person trying to hijack the party was not acceptable. During the reign of the former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who ran the party with an iron hand, none of the general council members knew about resolutions or what was going to be discussed. No member raised any issue. If there was any move to change the fundamental character of the party via an amendment, he said, this should be jointly decided by the coordinator and the joint coordinator.