Sources told CNN-News18 that the formal announcement could come any moment.
According to sources, the hiccup in the merger talks has been caused by OPS aide KP Munusamy and three MLAs. They say everything they have stood for till now will be compromised and the OPS team will lose credibility. Earlier in the day, sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran had downplayed the expected merger of both the factions and said it would not last long.
Late night drama in Chennai as sources say that three members of the OPS camp have refused to support the merger of the two factions, throwing a spanner in the works. Members leaving the meeting evaded the media. Sources say the friction could have been caused over the OPS faction’s demand of the general secretary post.
The Numbers Game in Tamil Nadu
The AIADMK power tussle will have interesting consequences for the Tamil Nadu assembly. While the effective strength of the assembly is 234, 232 MLAs are eligible to vote. Of this, AIADMK has 134 legislators. The magic figure is 117.
CM Palanisami has the support of 122 MLAs, while 11 support the OPS camp. Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dinakaran claims the support of 20 MLAs. If he decides to pull support and all the MLAs follow suit, AIADMK would be left with only 114 MLAs (134 – 20 = 114), falling 3 short of the magic figure.
Why BJP is trying to unite the two factions
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the merger, when it goes through, will be the BJP. Jayalalithaa’s death was a blow to the NDA government. Despite not being a member of the alliance, the AIADMK led by her was a reliable ally on many issues, both inside and outside parliament. Amma also shared a good rapport with PM Narendra Modi since his Gujarat days. BJP’s attempt to convince OPS and EPS faction to merge is seen by many as it’s a desperate attempt to stop political rivals - DMK & Cong) from taking advantage of the "fluid situation" in the state.
CLICK TO READ | Only 3 MLAs Attend Dinakaran Meeting as OPS, EPS Inch Closer to Merger
One of the critical issues that would need to be settled before the merger is who gets the leadership of the party.
The Panneerselvam faction had laid three conditions for an AIADMK merger: keeping out Sasikala and her family members, ordering a judicial probe into the death of Jayalalithaa and converting Jayalalithaa's residence into a memorial. The Palaniswami faction claims that the major demands of Panneerselvam faction have been met after Thursday's announcement.
The AIADMK has been split into three factions after Jayalalithaa's death in December last year. The first to revolt against the party's General Secretary and now jailed V.K. Sasikala was Panneerselvam. The other two factions that emerged later are led by Chief Minister Palaniswami and Deputy General Secretary T.T.V. Dinakaran, a nephew of Sasikala.
CLICK TO READ | Towards a United AIADMK: What Prompted EPS to Act With Urgency?
Was it that TTV Dinakaran held a hugely successful rally that has sent left both OPS and EPS worried? Or were there other compulsions?
The Tamil Nadu CM had cleared the decks for the merger on Thursday by accepting two major conditions for the merger laid down by the OPS camp. The Tamil Nadu Government had announced a probe by a retired High Court judge into the death of the late Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa, over which suspicions were raised by the rebel camp. Palaniswami also announced that the late AIADMK supremo’s Poes Garden residence will be turned into a memorial.
The VK Sasikala camp seems to have lost the majority of its support. A meeting called by Sasikala’s nephew and AIADMK leader, TTV Dinakaran, was attended by only 3 MLAs loyal to him and the self-styled Chinamma. This comes after Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami, in the last 24 hours, indirectly distanced himself from the VK Sasikala-led camp, indicating that the Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam factions were inching closer to a merger.
Sources have told CNN-News18 that the merger could be announced later night and O Panneerselvam may be made the deputy chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Buzz in political circles is that both EPS and OPS may go to Amma Samadhi to pay respects and formally announce the unification.
Former Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam is expected to announce his decision on the merger of the two rival factions of AIADMK shortly. The EPS and OPS camps went into a huddle today to chalk out the future course of action, a day after the Tamil Nadu government announced a probe into the death of J Jayalalithaa.
File photo of O Panneerselvam (left) and EK Palaniswami. (PTI)
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