Paneerselvam. Photo: PTI
Chennai: Former Tamil Nadu chief minister and deposed AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam (OPS) on Wednesday said that the final victory in the battle for the party's leadership would be won by his camp and dared his rival Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) to float a new political party.
Addressing office-bearers of his faction here, Panneerselvam, without naming Palaniswami, said that EPS could be the only leader anywhere to not back 'unity,' which they supported. He was addressing newly-appointed district secretaries and top office-bearers.
Veteran leader Panruti S Ramachandran, former minister R Vaithilingam were among those who took part.
AIADMK leader D Jayakumar said the meeting had nothing to do with the party and advised Panruti Ramachandran to avoid the company of OPS.
Ramachandran slammed AIADMK interim general secretary Palaniswami and said that it was because of EPS that the party lost all the polls.
OPS asked: "He (EPS) is saying that there is not even one per cent scope for (rapprochement) it. Who are you? Have you ever seen or interacted with MGR (party founder and late Chief Minister M G Ramachandran)? The party founder gave the ordinary workers (primary members) the right to choose the party chief, the party general secretary. Such a cardinal party bylaw was, however, discarded and it is a murder of democracy."
"Please reform yourself," he said, apparently hinting at the camp of Palaniswami. OPS said his side has succeeded in bringing the cadres together.
Considering party interests, OPS said he remained calm for nearly five years (2017-21) despite troubling times in view of an 'autocratic' EPS. "I was deceived for four and a half years."
OPS has appointed 88 'district secretaries' and top office-bearers. He said the future top leader would be an ordinary party worker.
Panneerselvam, who was expelled along with his supporters by the AIADMK months ago, dared EPS to float a separate party if he had 'guts and courage'. If Palaniswami did so, he would understand his plight, OPS claimed.
He lashed out at EPS for being an 'autocratic' leader and among the points he mentioned to substantiate his accusation was the offer of 'dummy' Deputy Chief Minister's post to him in 2017.
In an implicit criticism directed at EPS and his supporters, he claimed backroom maneuvering against his son, O P Ravindranath who might have had a chance to become a Union Minister in the BJP-led dispensation, following the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Ravindranath was the only AIADMK candidate to win (Theni LS seat) in Tamil Nadu that year. Out of the 39 LS seats, 38 was won by the DMK and its allies.
EPS held all the powers during 2017-2021 and he was autocratic and it led to repeat electoral defeats for the AIADMK including the 2019 Lok Sabha, civic polls and the 2021 Assembly polls, Panneerselvam said.
OPS said appropriate legal action would be taken if the AIADMK's funds were not used properly. EPS and his loyalists would not be pardoned by people for reversing a party clause that made sure that late party supremo J Jayalalithaa is always revered as the 'eternal' general secretary.
He praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for extending support when he was the Chief Minister in matters including conduct of Jallikattu.
Answering a question, OPS later told reporters that the AIADMK is the 'biggest' party in Tamil Nadu and an alliance would be formed under his leadership for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The party workers and people supported only them.
The 'final victory is ours,' in the battle for leadership against the background of pending matters in the Supreme Court and the Election Commission (EC), he said.
Both the party and its symbol would be with him and his loyalists, OPS said, adding that the general council meeting would be held in due course and an announcement shall be made.
Asked if the poll panel hosting on its website the AIADMK's annual audit report and financial statements for 2021-22 (by the EPS leadership) indicated that the EC has accepted Palaniswami's leadership, he said the statement of accounts acknowledged by the panel was the one prepared by him in his capacity as the party's treasurer.
To a question related to V K Sasikala, OPS hinted that she and others could be accommodated in the party.