In a blow to AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam, rival leader Edappady K Palaniswami, also known as EPS, was elevated as the party’s interim general secretary in a crucial meeting today.
The meeting empowered EPS to steer the party as a single supreme leader, effectively abolishing the current dual leadership model.
The AIADMK General Council scrapped the posts of Coordinator and Joint Coordinator held by O Panneerselvam and Palaniswami, citing difficulty in decision-making and discontent among party cadre. The AIADMK had lost three consecutive elections under the dual leadership.
The meeting, presided over by praesidium chairman A Tamil Mahan Hussain, began around 9.15 a.m., following approval from the Madras High Court.
The court denied OPS’s request for a stay of the meeting called by the faction led by Edappady K Palaniswami.
The party formally resolved at the meeting to hold organisational elections in four months to elect the General Secretary. It has amended several bylaws, including new standards for competing for the top party position.
According to one of the rules, only those with ten years of primary membership in the party are eligible to vote.
The AIADMK also passed a resolution urging the government to award the ‘Bharat Ratna’ to late leaders Periyar E V Ramasamy, CN Annadurai, and J Jayalalithaa.
Both factions’ supporters were caught on camera throwing stones at each other outside the party headquarters in Chennai this morning, just before the high court decision. Images also showed some people causing damage to vehicles parked nearby.
Previously, the OPS camp argued in court that only the Coordinator and the Joint Coordinator have the legal authority to call the meeting. And, technically, the meeting called by the newly appointed praesidium chairman is illegal. He also claimed that the meeting invitation was unsigned.
Team EPS, on the other hand, argued that dual leadership is no longer in effect because the previous meeting on June 23 did not ratify the election of both leaders, and thus the praesidium chairman convening the meeting and the office-bearers sending invites is legal.
They also mentioned that OPS was appointed as the party’s leader in 2017 using the same model.
The Supreme Court granted team EPS permission to hold the meeting in accordance with the law last week. While EPS desired single leadership, OPS preferred to maintain the current dual leadership model.
When Jayalalithaa was forced to resign following her conviction, she appointed OPS as her stand-in-chief minister twice. Though OPS was promoted for the third time shortly before her death, Jayalalithaa’s aide VK Sasikala, who briefly took over the party, replaced him with EPS after he rebelled against her.
She named EPS as Chief Minister before going to prison in the disproportionate assets case, in which Jayalalithaa was the main accused.
However, in a shocking political twist, both leaders reconciled and expelled Sasikala while she was imprisoned. OPS rose to become the party’s leader, with EPS serving as his deputy. OPS was appointed as EPS’s deputy in the government.
During his four-year tenure as chief minister, EPS solidified his position and took control of the party.