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The AIADMK faction led by former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Friday ruled out talks with the rival faction headed by Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy on a merger unless it declares Sasikala and her family members are formally expelled from the party.
The group also kept its cards close to its chest on which party or candidate it would support in the Presidential election slated in July.
"Our group has launched a dharma yudh for upholding the principles laid down by the late MGR and Jayalalithaa that the party should not go into the hands of any family, least of all into the hands of Sasikala and T T V Dinakaran. Even now the official party organ 'Namadhu MGR' carries statements in the name of Deputy General Secretary T T V Dinakaran.
"How can we take a decision to enter into talks with them (the faction headed by Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy) in such circumstances," Panneerselvam told a press conference after meeting the Election Commission.
To a question on who was the stumbling block in the merger talks, Panneerselvam said the media understood all the issues and why the merger process was "slow". "People know who are the stumbling block. We have taken a decision that we will stick to the basics of the principles laid down by MGR and Jayalalithaa and keep family rule out," he said.
In reply to another question on whose hands were dominating the rival faction , K Munuswamy, a senior leader of his faction and a former minister, said even now the party was being run by Diwakar, another relative of Sasikala. "Benami hands are still dominating the party. They (chief minister's side) has still not expelled them (Sasikala and Dinakaran). Only middle rung leaders are saying this. We have two demands -- a CBI probe into the death of Jayalalithaa and expulsion of Sasikala and Dinakaran. Once that is done, it is very easy to resume merger talks."
He said the people and AIADMK cardre are with his faction and this will be proved by the people in times to come. It was already visible during the recently-countermanded by- election to R K Nagar constituency in Chennai.
The former chief minister was replying to a question on renewed efforts of DMK working President M K Stalin, who has launched a campaign to reconnect with people, which is seen as a bid to come back to power.
A delegation headed by Panneerselvam met the Election Commission on Friday and submitted further documents to substantiate its case for allocation of the frozen 'Two Leaves' symbol to his faction. It gave a 170-page memorandum to the Commission to declare as "illegal" the nomination of Sasikala as General Secretary after the death of Jayalalithaa. It referred to the Election Commission website not containing any name for the post of General Secretary for AIADMK and said it should make a de jure declaration to that effect.
He later said that the Commission should take an early decision on the issue as still on the Commission's website the post of General Secretary remained vacant as it has not upheld the appointment of Sasikala, Jaya's close aide, as General Secretary after Jayalalithaa's death.
Panneerselvam said the Commission should also intervene and freeze the powers of 'Treasurer' Dindugal Srinivsan, who has withdrawn crores of rupees from the party funds. Former Chief Minister Srinivasan's appointment as Treasurer by Sasikala was also illegal.
He maintained that as he (Panneerselvam) was the Treasurer appointed by Jayalalithaa, he has written to the banks to freeze the funds but they have not done so in violation of party rules. It is for the EC and the RBI to intervene and see that continued withdrawal of party funds by Srinivasan is not allowed, he said.
Panneerselvam said as per the party constitution he should have been allowed to run the party after the demise of Jayalalithaa as per standard practice laid down by Jayalalithaa whenever extraordinary occasions arose. During such occasions, Jayalalithaa used to nominate the Presidium Chairman and Treasurer to run the party and by that practice he should have been allowed to run the party.
"But Sasikala was nominated General Secretary in violation of party constitution which says that the post can be filled up only through election. She has no right to continue in the post," he said.
Asked about the group's strategy in the presidential election, Panneerselvam said the election has not been announced nor has any candidate or party made any declaration. Once that is done, the party leadership will meet and take a decision, he added.