The two warring factions of the AIADMK came together today after a gap of six months with Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisami and former Chief Minister and leader of the rival camp O Pannerselvam shaking hands at a joint meeting at the party headquarters.
As part of the deal, O Pannerselvam has been made Deputy Chief Minister and given the key portfolio of Finance while his senior colleague K Pandiarajan has been given a minor portfolio of Archeology and Tamil Development and Culture.
Within hours of the merger, Governor Ch Vidhyasaga Rao administered the oath and secrecy to the two Ministers at a simple ceremony at Raj Bhavan, taking the strength of the Edappadi Ministry to 35.
Besides inducting the two into government, Edappadi also announced that OPS would be coordinator of the united party and he would be his deputy. Likewise, senior leader from the OPS camp K P Munisamy would be assistant coordinator while parliamentarian and former Minister Vaithilaigam from the EPS group would be assistant coordinator.These announcements were made by Edappadi at the joint meeting of the reunited party which came after hectic consultations OPS had with his supporters many of whom said the merger should take place only after general secretary V K Sasikala was completely removed from the party.
Edappadi convinced OPS that as Sasikala had been elected by the general council of the united AIAMDK, she could be removed only after the two factions merged and called another meeting of the general council. He also did not want to provoke deposed deputy general secretary T T V Dinakaran by taking any precipitatory action against Sasikala who for all practical purposes has been sidelined.
Edappadi agreed to take only two from the OPS camp into his Ministry while Pannerselvam wanted another senior leader and former Minister K Semmalai included. Edappadi did not want to go in for a major expansion as rewarding too many rebels would add to the discontent of 123 MLAs who stood by him all these months since the split last February
Likewise, Pannerselvam could not get party post for another former Minister Natham Viswanathan.
As he has been named coordinator along with Edappadi, these malcontents may be accommodated in the party over time.
As the two leaders clinched the merger deal, 18 ruling party legislators met deposed deputy general secretary T T V Dinakaran who still holds a whip hand.
If he wants to bring this down this government, he will have to ask the 18 dissident MLAs to inform the Governor that they are withdrawing support. Even so, the Governor can only ask the Government to seek another confidence vote as numerous court rulings have held that the majority should be tested only on the floor of the Assembly.
If events come to such a pass, the Chief Minister can petition the Speaker to take action against the rebels under the anti-defection law. With merger, only half the battle has been won. The two factions will have to withdraw the two petitions filed before the Election Commission, one by EPS endorsing Sasikala’s election as general secretary and another by OPS camp questioning its legality.
The frozen Two Leaves symbol can be freed only after the Election Commission closes the case.