AIADMK gen council calls for single leadership, favours EPS

AIADMK Coordinator O Panneerselvam, Joint Coordinator Edappadi K Palaniswami and other senior leaders during the party's General Council Meeting, in Chennai, Thursday, June 23, 2022. PHOTO: PTI

Chennai: Amid chaos, the AIADMK General Council meeting here on Thursday announced that the one and only demand of the members was to bring in a system of single leadership for the party, favouring joint coordinator Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS).

The Executive and General Council meet held together saw EPS emerging as the supreme leader and he was honoured with a decorated crown, a sword and sceptre by supporters.

EPS's colleague and coordinator O Panneerselvam, popularly known as OPS, was apparently snubbed in the meet and rude slogans were shouted against him.

The meet, which stuck to the one and only demand of making EPS the supreme party leader, turned out to be a full show of strength of the Palaniswami camp with OPS followers heavily outnumbered. The Panneerselvam camp promptly declared the proceedings invalid and OPS, a three-time Chief Minister is likely to air-dash to Delhi to explore options like approaching the Election Commission to take forward his fight against the EPS faction.

While the EPS camp asserted that the council would meet again on July 11 to elect Palaniswami as the party head, the OPS group said it is not possible as only coordinator and joint coordinator had the powers to convene the meet and not the presidium chairman.

Meet a pointer to region, caste-based groups within AIADMK

The meet was as well a pointer to the region and caste based groupings within the AIADMK. Within the party, most belonging to the Vanniyakula Kshathriyas community, also known as Vanniyars, dominant in northern Tamil Nadu and the Gounders, seen as movers and shakers of the western region, favoured EPS.

Panneerselvam's loyalists mostly belong to the southern parts of the state and to the Mukkulathor community, a Most Backward Caste like Vanniyars. OPS hails from the Mukkulathor community.

OPS speaking in favour of considering taking back into the party V K Sasikala, confidante of late party supremo J Jayalalithaa, and appearing to be 'soft' towards the DMK were among the EPS camp's grouses against him.

Elsewhere, addressing a function, DMK President and Chief Minister M K Stalin made a veiled reference to the infighting in the AIADMK and said those who wanted to decimate his party have now been wiped out.

When the EC-GC meet, that rejected all the 23 proposed resolutions, consistently focused on the 'EPS for single leader' demand, OPS was prompted to leave the dais along with his supporters including R Vaithilingam.

Chaotic scenes

The meet, that witnessed chaotic scenes was over in less than 40 minutes after it started. A water bottle landed pretty close to OPS when he stood near the podium and fell on his personal security officer who extended his arms around the former Chief Minister to protect him. A second water bottle came close to the party coordinator when he was walking down the stairs from the dais towards the exit gate.

A palpable sense of anxiety prevailed as supporters of Paneerselvam and Palaniswami engaged in rival slogan shouting and some of them loudly argued against one another and voiced their full-throated backing to their respective leaders.

As OPS and EPS entered the premises of the hall, their supporters raised slogans welcoming them.

Senior leader C Ve Shanmugam, who was recently elected to the Rajya Sabha, said the party needed a single leadership as the current dual leadership led by OPS and EPS has led to contradictions, setbacks, embarrassments, administrative issues and could not effectively take on the ruling DMK. “This has demoralised cadres, he said and added that as many as 2,190 council members have signed a petition favouring a sole leader, apparently a pointer to EPS.”

Deputy secretary K P Munusamy said that when the resolution favouring a single leadership is taken up and passed, all other resolutions would be adopted on the same day.

Panneerselvam was the Chief Minister for a brief period thrice, during 2001-02, 2014-15 and 2016-17. Palaniswami was the Chief Minister from 2017 to 2021. Hours after the AIADMK meet, BJP State unit chief K Annamalai along with senior leader C T Ravi called on Palaniswami here to seek support for the NDA's Presidential nominee Droupadi Murmu. The BJP leaders also visited Panneerselvam.

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