The Indian Express – Tamil Nadu deal closer: OPS back as CM and EPS as AIADMK chief

Tamil Nadu deal: According to sources, what forced the ruling faction to give up the post of chief minister was the “vulnerable state of the government”.

Arun Janardhanan

Chennai, 22 April 2017. Setting the stage for a unified AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, the two rival factions in the party are said to have agreed upon a deal to reinstate rebel leader O Panneerselvam as the chief minister while current CM E K Palaniswami will take charge as the organisation’s general secretary in place of the jailed V K Sasikala.

“The merger deal has been sealed and formal talks will begin now between the senior leaders of both factions to finalise and announce the decision. Palaniswami will step down for Panneerselvam, and become the party chief.

Health Minister C Vijayabaskar, whose properties were raided by Income Tax officials, may be dropped from the cabinet.

Former minister and MLA Senthil Balaji may be inducted along with one or two more faces from southern Tamil Nadu,” a senior AIADMK leader told The Indian Express.

According to sources, what forced the ruling faction to give up the post of chief minister was the “vulnerable state of the government”. “A revolt by just six of the 122 MLAs currently with the ruling faction will bring down the government,” said sources, referring to the majority mark in the assembly.

Party sources said that former minister Balaji may replace Vijayabaskar in the new cabinet.

On Friday, Balaji announced that he would hold a hunger strike against Vijayabaskar and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai, another key leader in the ruling faction, for their alleged role in delaying the construction of a medical college building in Karur, which was announced by the late J Jayalalithaa when she was chief minister.

Interestingly, Balaji was among those who had stayed at a resort with Chennai along with other MLAs from the ruling faction, and supported Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dinakaran. Once a trusted aide of the late Jayalalithaa, Balaji was dropped from her previous cabinet for allegedly anointing himself as her successor.

With Balaji switching sides, and a merger announcement likely by Monday, other ministers from the ruling faction have started distancing themselves from Sasikala and Dinakaran.

Commercial Taxes Minister K C Veeramani has claimed that he was “the first to raise a voice” against Sasikala and her family, and demand that their photographs should not be placed on party banners and hoardings.

He said that he had demanded Dinakaran’s resignation, too, even when seniors including Palaniswami and Thambidurai had asked him to be patient.

Given the new situation, sources said that Thambidurai may be the other major loser if the chief minister’s post goes to Panneerselvam. “Vijayabaskar coordinated the entire resort episode. Thambidurai was expected to join Panneerselvam during the initial stages of the revolt but changed his mind and stood with Sasikala,” said a senior party leader.

Following the latest development, top government sources said that Chief Minister Palaniswami, who is leaving for Delhi to attend the NITI Aayog’s national meet, may be given an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.

“The Chief Minister will also meet the Tamil Nadu farmers, who are protesting in Delhi, to convince them to stop the agitation,” said the official.

The first signs of a merger had emerged last Monday after Dinakaran was booked by Delhi Police for allegedly trying to bribe Election Commission officials through a middleman to obtain the party’s two-leaves poll symbol, which was frozen by the EC following claims from both sides.

Dinakaran, who was forced to step down from the post of party deputy general secretary, is scheduled to appear before Delhi Police on Monday, the same day the merger is likely to be sealed and announced.

Tamil Nadu deal closer: OPS back as CM and EPS as AIADMK chief

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