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Opening the doors for a possible merger of the two AIADMK factions, Chief Minister K Palaniswami-led Amma faction on Thursday challenged the authority of its Deputy General Secretary TTV Dhinakaran, a move hailed by the rebel camp as an "awakening."
A meeting presided over by Palaniswami said the appointment of Dinakaran as deputy general secretary was against party rules. Dinakaran is nephew of jailed party chief V K Sasikala,
Chaired by the chief minister, originally a loyalist of Sasikala, the meeting is seen as his most categorical assertion in party affairs since taking over the reins in February this year amid reports that the merger of the two factions could take place before August 15.
Reacting to the development, a defiant Dinakaran later told reporters in Thanjavur that the party was still under his control.
The Palaniswami camp had in April announced the sidelining of Dinakaran and Sasikala from the party affairs and the state government.
The latest turn of events prompted the AIADMK Puratchi Thalaivi Amma headed by former chief minister O Panneerselvam to hold its own consultations and hail the rebellion against Dinakaran as an 'awakening'.
The current move in both camps is being perceived as one step closer to a merger of the warring factions through efforts to ease out Sasikala and Dinakaran.
Dhinakaran's appointment was under the scrutiny of the Election Commission, the AIADMK (Amma) led by Palaniswami said, wondering how the former could make new appointments at such a juncture.
The fresh developments come days after Dhinakaran sought to assert his position in the party by returning to active party work after a two-month hiatus after his arrest in a case related to alleged attempt to bribe the Election Commission officials.
On August 4, Dinakaran had announced the appointment of some new office-bearers, considered his loyalists.
Citing this, a resolution by the Palainiswami camp said today's meeting made it clear that such appointments by Dinakaran was not binding on any party cadre and asked them to reject it.
"...(the appointments) will not bind any AIADMK cadre to create unnecessary confusion in our party and such appointments are not valid under party law. Cadres are requested to reject them," it said.
Significantly, the meeting also said though Sasikala was made general secretary following the death of party supremo and late chief minister Jayalalithaa in December last year, she could not function in the post now in 'view of extraordinary circumstances."
"Though Sasikala's appointment as general secretary was till such time the formal election of a new general secretary as per party laws, she could not function in view of extraordinary circumstances," the resolution said.
This was an apparent reference to Sasikala's conviction by the Supreme Court in the disproportionate assets case in February last and her subsequent incarceration in a Bengaluru jail to serve her four-year term.
Also, Sasikala's appointment had been challenged and it was pending before the EC, the meeting noted.
Under such circumstances, the party was being run by top functionaries appointed by AIADMK Amma (a reference to the camp led by Palaniswami), it said.
Top functionaries and senior state cabinet ministers led by Palaniswami attended the meeting.
The rival Panneerselvam camp, which also held its own consultations, described the move by the chief minister's camp as an "awakening."
It, however, remained firm on its demands--- a probe into the late chief minister J Jayalalithaa's death and expulsion of Sasikala and her family from AIADMK, as a precondition for merger talks.
The Amma faction's joining hands against Dinakaran was kind of an "awakening," Pannerselvam aide KP Munusamy said.
"They have woken up now only. That awakening should not be confined to Dinakaran and we will laud them if it extends to Sasikala's family also," he said.
However, there was no change in their stand on the two key demands for holding merger talks, he said.
He said the rebellion against Dinakaran, "a man not acceptable to us," was a first possible step towards the merger talks, he said when asked if today's developments can be viewed as a precursor to the possible unification.
"Wait and watch our activities if they expel (Sasikala and all of her family)," he said.
Finance Minister D Jayakumar, a senior leader in the Amma camp, expressed hope of the unification even happening by August 15.
"We are confident. Hope so," was Jayakumar's brief response when media persons sought his reaction on reports that the merger could happen by August 15.
However, Dinakaran appeared to put up a brave face even as he stopped short of announcing action against the chief minister for the virtual coup against him.
"I have the authority to take action against anybody who is acting against party's interest," he said.
"For sure, all steps will be taken for party growth. If the situation warrants, surgeries will be performed..."
He hinted action would be taken against those working against the party having forgotten who gave them the posts and joining hands with rivals, he said.
Taking on the Palaniswami camp, he said they had several fears and one of them was over his upcoming statewide tour. "I am going to start my state-wide tour. They have given these statements out of fear," he added.
Dinakaran further said when the chief minister's camp had agreed to Sasikala's appointment as party head, the subsequent appointments by her including, naming him as party deputy general secretary, was also valid.
The camp had also filed affidavits in the EC supporting the candidature of Sasikala and himself and wondered why they were backtracking now, he said.
Dinakaran said his post was a nominated one and the party general secretary could name office-bearers to such posts. He asserted that the appointments he made were valid and in tune with party bye-laws.
He also cited Sasikala naming Forest Minister Dindigul C Srinivasan as party treasurer after the expulsion of incumbent Panneerselvam.
Dinakaran said the incumbent AIADMK regime was set up by party general secretary V K Sasikala and hence it should not face any threat.
Munusamy dismissed as "speculation" by media, reports that Panneerselvam would be made deputy chief minister as part of the unification deal.