All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader Edappadi K. Palaniswami with his supporters | File photo: PTI
Chennai: The Election Commission on Thursday endorsed the elevation of Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) to the top position of the AIADMK as its general secretary, thereby also acknowledging the expulsion of O Panneerselvam (OPS) and his supporters from the party last year.
The EC, however, made it clear that its decision to take on record the changes to the AIADMK's organisational structure was subject to any further court order on the leadership dispute.
The poll panel's communication dated April 20, 2023 giving validation to Palaniswami's leadership came on a day when the Madras High Court resumed its hearing on the Panneerselvam camp's pleas over the leadership of the party and related issues.
The Commission's move came as a shot in the arm for Palaniswami, and the AIADMK workers welcomed the EC's decision by bursting firecrackers and distributing sweets to the people.
Palaniswami described the development as a "success", and said that all the 1.5 crore party members were jubilant.
The EC move comes after a Delhi High Court order of April 12. The election body also took into account judgments of the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court on specific petitions, which are in one way or the other related to the larger leadership dispute.
EPS said in a statement that by getting the EC's recognition as well, the party had established that the final victory had been for justice, and that the efforts of "betrayers" had been defeated.
He urged party workers to take a vow to work towards winning all the 39 Parliamentary constituencies in Tamil Nadu and the lone segment in Puducherry in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Addressing a press conference following the party's district secretaries' meet here, Palaniswami, answering a question, slammed OPS for "functioning" as the ruling DMK's B-team.
Palaniswami made it clear that "barring some", others who genuinely loved the party and aspired to bring back party founder "MGR and Amma's rule" would be taken back into the party.
Asked about persons who would not be re-admitted into the party, he said: "You decide it, you know who they are...there is no need to waste time discussing about others." Apparently, it was a reference to Panneerselvam and confidante of late chief minister J Jayalalithaa V K Sasikala as well as her relatives such as TTV Dhinakaran.
To a question on challenges, if any, that he now faces following the success of efforts to usher in a single leadership structure, he said he was only an ordinary worker and the party had elected him as general secretary, and that the top position was an opportunity given to him by the party.
Palaniswami pointed out that the Election Commission had said that the AIADMK general council meeting resolutions were valid. The pointer is to the expulsion of Panneerselvam and his supporters in 2022 and EPS himself being elevated as party chief.
The AIADMK top leader said the court had already upheld the general council meeting and the resolutions adopted thereof. Based on a court order, the election to choose the general secretary was announced and he had been unanimously elected as the party chief, he said.
"My wholehearted thanks to all the party workers, district secretaries and all the office-bearers and top functionaries."
With the EC's decision, he said the AIADMK would function even more effectively as the principal opposition party following the path of the party's founder leader MGR and former party supremo Jayalalithaa.
The party's goal was "sending home" the DMK regime.
Except the few people he called "betrayors", all others who are committed to working together to realise the AIADMK's vision would be taken back.
"There is only one AIADMK and a clear decision has come. Some selfish people alone have parted ways and the true workers are here. Our goal is to reach a membership of 2 crore." The "decision" he referred to was the EC recognising him as party chief and acknowledging the expulsions.
Palaniswami said the AIADMK would again capture power in Tamil Nadu. To another question, he said Speaker M Appavu would be requested again to name one among them as the AIADMK's deputy floor leader.
The party had previously demanded that R B Udhayakumar, a former minister, be declared deputy leader, de-recognising Panneerselvam since he had been expelled.
Speaking about the Karnataka Assembly elections, Palaniswami said AIADMK is contesting in a single Assembly constituency to demonstrate its identity.
Asked if the general council would again be convened, he said it shall be decided following consultations. He said the AIADMK state conference to be held in Madurai on August 20, 2023 would be a mega event.
On party initiatives, he said already a membership drive was on and fresh tasks include setting up booth committees. All the district secretaries have been advised to complete the work on time.
A former chief minister, EPS was elected general secretary on March 28, soon after the Madras High Court rejected all petitions filed by the deposed Panneerselvam and his aides against the resolutions of the July 11, 2022 party general council and the conduct of the election to the post of general secretary.