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The two AIADMK factions on Thursday failed to break the ice over commencement of merger talks, with the rebel group firm on removal of party chief VK Sasikala and her deputy TTV Dhinakaran, besides a CBI probe into J Jayalalithaa's death. Though the faction led by Chief Minister EK Palaniswami said the doors were open for talks, the O Pannerselvam camp made it clear that the preconditions set by it would have to be met first. "We are ready. We have told them the preconditions. Talks won't happen unless they meet them. Thats the fact," Panneerselvam aide and former Minister K Pandiarajan told reporters here. Pandiarajan's comments came hours after leaders of the Palaniswami camp said they were ready for talks and the "doors are open." "As mentioned earlier, the doors are open..
If they come for talks we are ready (to hold discussions)", Finance Minister D Jayakumar said, noting that both sides had constituted committees to discuss the matter. The two groups have been expressing their willingness to sit across the table and discuss the proposed merger since they set up their respective 7-member committees for the purpose last week. However, talks have not got off the ground so far. The Palaniswami camp had revolted against the party leadership on April 18 and resolved to keep away Sasikala and her family from the AIADMK. Dhinakaran, the AIADMK (Amma) deputy general secretary, who was deputising for his aunt Sasikala, was later arrested for allegedly attempting to bribe an unidentified Election Commission official to secure the 'two leaves' symbol of the undivided party prior to the RK Nagar assembly byelection. The April 12 election was subsequently countermanded over use of money to lure voters. Hopes of an early start of the talks had received a boost yesterday when the banners of Sasikala at the AIADMK headquarters were pulled down, apparently yielding to a demand of the rival camp. The development was welcomed by the Panneerselvam group, with senior leader KP Munusamy calling it a positive step. "The pulling down of banners (featuring) Sasikala, whom we want to be removed from the party, is the first step in the implementation of that demand. We express our happiness over that," he had said. However, the AIADMK (Amma) faction later maintained that the banners were removed in line with a decision taken earlier. The Panneerselvam camp has stood firm on its demand for the government recommending a CBI probe into the "mysterious" death of late chief minister Jayalalithaa, besides ejecting Sasikala, Dhinakaran and their family members from AIADMK before the talks could begin. Though Pandiarajan today did not explicitly say what the preconditions were, he said his senior colleague Munusamy had already expounded those. Meanwhile, cooperation minister Sellur K Raju said his party has been left "without father and mother", and that people's aspiration for unity between the two factions was being reflected upon by their leaders. He said the work for "keenly anticipated" merger talks was on. "AIADMK is a movement without father and mother. Our Amma (mother-Jayalalithaa) is no more. "People and supporters want the party built by Amma through hard work to be united. This aspiration is reflected among the leaders of both factions," he said. He exuded confidence that the AIADMK government will not only complete its current term in office but also retain power after the 2021 Assembly polls. Asked whether the faction will now tear down posters of Sasikala, serving jail term in a disproportionate assets case, from the party's district offices also, Raju said a panel had been formed to go into the matter.