Day after AIADMK Meet on CM-pick, Panneerselvam Goes into Huddle, Skips EPS-led Meet on Covid-19

File photo of Tamil Nadu CM E Palaniswami (right) and deputy O Panneerselvam.

File photo of Tamil Nadu CM E Palaniswami (right) and deputy O Panneerselvam.

Triggering speculations about the probability of a fresh bout of bickering, the meet at Panneerselvam's residence was attended by senior leaders, includingdeputy coordinator K P Munusamy and Rajya Sabha MP, RVaithilingam.

AIADMK coordinator and Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam was closeted with a section of leaders on Tuesday, skipping a meeting chaired by Chief Minister K Palaniswami on COVID-19, a day after the two crossed swords over who should lead the party in the 2021 assembly elections. Triggering speculations about the probability of a fresh bout of bickering, the meet at the Greenways Road residence of Panneerselvam here was attended by senior leaders, including deputy coordinator KP Munusamy and Rajya Sabha MP RVaithilingam.

However, Vaithilingam, also a party deputy coordinator, told waiting mediapersons later that "there is no political significance to the meeting." Asked on the choice of chief ministerial candidate for the next year elections, he said: "Let us see on October 7,"adding "there is no confusion" on the matter and AIADMK would"recapture power". After a stormy AIADMK executive meeting on Monday where the issue of leadership for the polls was discussed, Munsamy had announced Panneerselvam and Palaniswami, joint-coordinator of the party, would announce on October 7 the chief ministerial candidate.

The executive committee meet here saw heated exchanges between Panneerselvam and Palaniswami over whos hould be the chief ministerial face of the AIADMK for the assembly elections next year. Vaithilingam on Tuesday said he supported both Panneerselvam and Palaniswami considering the party interests.

The former minister in the late J Jayalalithaa's cabinet said his goal "is to see the party retain power next year" by further strengthening the AIADMK. Munusamy too said not much should be read into the consultations which were only about routine "party work." During the split in the AIADMK, Vaithilingam and Munusamy were with the factions led by Palaniswami and Panneerselvam respectively. The two factions merged in 2017 following which Panneerselvam was made deputy chief minister.

Panneerselvam's impromptu meet with party senior office-bearers and his absence at a meeting of district collectors on coronavirus pandemic chaired by Palaniswami at the secretariat set off speculations on further escalation of the situation. Panneerselvam had taken part in such meetings held byPalaniswami in the past.

Meanwhile, senior leader and Fisheries Minister DJayakumar, when asked about the rival claims at the executive committee meeting, said it was nothing but "healthy exchange"of views. "Let us wait and see on Oct7," he told reporters on the sidelines of an event.

Asked if the release of VK Sasikala, former aide of late party supremo Jayalalithaa, was discussed at the executive Jayakumar shot back: "It was an unnecessary subject. Why should it be discussed at the meet?" Sasikala was sentenced to four years imprisonment in a disproportionate assets case by the Supreme Court in February, 2017.

Former Information Technology Minister M Manikandan, who was dropped from the Cabinet last year by Palaniswami, and former MP PH Manoj Pandian were also present at Panneerselvam's residence on Tuesday. At the executive, Pandian had taken the stand that Palaniswami and Panneerselvam were like the "Two Leaves"symbol of the party (to denote togetherness and unity).

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