Jayalalithaa ‘Eternal General Secretary’, Sasikala Removed, Says AIADMK

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VK-Sasikala1200J Jayalalithaa will be the AIADMK’s “eternal general secretary,” Tamil Nadu’s ruling party said today, scrapping the post and sacking VK Sasikala, who is in a Bengalru prison. The party will be run by Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam as Chief Coordinator and Chief Minister E Palaniswami as his assistant. Today’s meeting made a merger between factions led by the two leaders formal and ended the primacy of Ms Sasikala – who took over as the party’s chief’s after Ms Jayalalithaa’s death in December last — and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran. Today’s decisions are, however, subject to the approval of the Madras High Court which allowed the meeting to be held, dismissing a petition by Sasikala loyalists to put it on hold.

The AIADMK reported 95% attendance at the meeting of 2,000 party members; 18 lawmakers loyal to Sasikala skipped the meeting, which voided her appointment as interim general secretary and so also her appointment of Mr Dinakaran as deputy general secretary last February. Mr Dinakaran’s orders do not bind the party, party leaders said after the meeting.

The meeting ratified the appointment of Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam as the chief of the 11-member steering committee of the party. It also formalized the merger between the factions led by Chief Minister E Palaniswami and Mr Panneerselvam, which happened last month after long and bitter negotiations.

The expulsion of VK Sasikala was one of the key demands of the faction led by Jayalalithaa loyalist O Panneerselvam, who had rebelled earlier this year after VK Sasikala forced him to step down from the Chief Minister’s post.

After former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s death in December, VK Sasikala, her long-time live-in aide, had taken over the party. Mr Panneerselvam, who had filled in for Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister on several occasions, had taken over the top post in the government.

Under the terms of the merger, Mr Pannerselvam, who had been the Chief Minister before Mr Palaniswami, was made his deputy — the key party post for him was seen as balancing out the comedown.

TTV Dhinakaran, who has been making an all-out effort to claw back to power, claims to have the support 19 lawmakers and has sided with the opposition DMK to demand that Chief Minister Palaniswami face a trust vote.

DMK leader MK Stalin, who met the Governor on Sunday, says together with Mr Dhinakaran, they have 119 legislators. The halfway mark in the 234-member assembly since the death of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa stands at 117.

The united AIADMK says they have the support of nine lawmakers from the Dhinakaran camp and hence a majority figure of 124.

TTV Dinakaran has said they want the Chief Minister to resign, “otherwise we will not hesitate to bring down the EPS government”.

Yesterday, a lawmaker in his camp filed a petition in the Madras High court asking that the General Council meet today be put on hold. The court dismissed the petition, but said any decision by the General Council will be subject to its decision, which may be announced during the next hearing on October 23.