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O. Panneerselvam expelled from AIADMK; government seals party headquarters

Print edition : Aug 25, 2022 T+T-

O. Panneerselvam expelled from AIADMK; government seals party headquarters

AIADMK party headquarters being sealed after two groups of suspected AIADMK workers clashed outside the office, on July  11.

AIADMK party headquarters being sealed after two groups of suspected AIADMK workers clashed outside the office, on July 11. | Photo Credit: PTI

In a day of fast-paced developments in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the party’s general council elected former Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) as interim general secretary, expelled another former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam (OPS) from the party, and the local Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) sealed the party headquarters after a pitched battle between EPS and OPS supporters. At the general council meeting, the party also appointed former Minister Dindigul Srinivasan as treasurer, a post that OPS had held.

In the notice stuck on the door of the AIADMK headquarters, the RDO addressed the letter to both EPS and OPS, but left out their designations in the party. The rest of the address on the notice merely reads: “AIADMK party headquarters, Avvai Shanmugham Road, Royapettah, Chennai and his 200 supporters.” The notice explains that the reason for the sealing of the headquarters was that the RDO was “satisfied that there is an imminent possibility of breach of peace, tranquility and law and order.”

Following this, OPS sat on a dharna at the party headquarters but left the scene after the police informed him that CrPC Section 145 (disputed land which can cause breach of peace) and Section 144 (prohibitory orders) had been enforced in the area surrounding the AIADMK headquarters.

The day begins

Earlier, the EPS camp had announced July 11 as the date for the general council meeting and OPS had approached the Madras High Court, claiming that the meeting was illegal. The judge had reserved orders after arguments on July 8 and had stated that he would pronounce the judgment by 9 am on July 11.

EPS did not wait for the orders of the court to be pronounced before he left for Vanagaram, the venue of the general council meeting in the western suburb of Chennai. By 9.10 a.m., the verdict came in that the general council could go ahead. “In matters of internal affairs of party/association, the courts normally do not interfere, leaving it open to the party/association and its members to frame a particular bye-law, rule or regulation which may provide a better management of the party/association and solution for sorting out any issues and/or providing restrictions,” the judgment noted.

Realising that he was left in the lurch, OPS, too, left for the party office in the heart of the city along with his supporters from his hometown. As he neared the party office, stones were thrown, ostensibly by EPS supporters who were ‘guarding’ the party headquarters. A major scuffle ensued for about 40 minutes before OPS retreated. There were no policemen in sight.

A clash breaks out between two groups of suspected AIADMK workers outside party headquarters in Chennai on July 11.
A clash breaks out between two groups of suspected AIADMK workers outside party headquarters in Chennai on July 11. | Photo Credit: PTI

The battle on Avvai Shanmugham Salai, the road leading to the party headquarters, resulted in a ‘victory’ for the OPS faction. Once they reached the gates, they realised that it was locked. They broke open the lock, entered the office, and broke open the main door of the party headquarters. Once the path was cleared, OPS entered the office. His supporters were seen carrying away and loading onto a truck what looked like files and other party-related material from the office.

Despite the area being classified as a sensitive one and despite former Minister D. Jayakumar urging the police to give protection to the office, the Chennai Police did not do so. There are also CCTVs installed all along the road and in the office. Police control rooms get live feed from these cameras. But the police did not act for about 40 minutes.

EPS elected as interim general secretary

Meanwhile, the party’s general council unanimously elected EPS as ‘interim general secretary’ and it was announced that the election for the post of general secretary will be held within four months. The party annulled the post of ‘permanent general secretary’ which was allotted to Jayalalithaa and passed a total of 16 resolutions.

EPS turned emotional in the speech he gave after he was elected: “I never dreamt of becoming the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. I was always one among you. I am one among you today too. This party is my whole life.”

He also tried to make it seem as if OPS was the bad guy: “Many of our leaders spoke to OPS many times on the issue of dual leadership. They tried to convince him that the party needed one leader at the top because we faced a lot of problems due to this dual leadership.” But since OPS would not budge, the party was left with no other option but to go ahead and do what was right, he said.

Earlier, when K.P. Munusamy, a senior leader, was speaking, a section of the crowd demanded that OPS be sacked from all party posts. Munusamy, Natham R. Viswanathan and many other leaders tried to calm them down. On the stage, leaders such as C. Ve. Shanmugham took a hard stand, saying that OPS needed to be expelled for his actions. He was supported by D. Jayakumar, the only AIADMK leader who was part of all the Jayalalithaa ministries.

In the end, a resolution was adopted removing OPS from the party. The first decision of EPS as interim general secretary was to name Dindigul Srinivasan as the party’s treasurer.

The battle in the AIADMK is far from over. Both the Election Commission and the courts will be approached in the next act by the OPS faction in a bid to get a toe-hold in the party. By all accounts, EPS has inched closer to getting control of the party that was founded by M.G. Ramachandran.