AIADMK in a predicament over Sasikala, AMMK factor

The AIADMK seems to be in a predicament over the BJP’s suggestion that it accommodate the AMMK, led by T.T.V. Dhinakaran, in the ruling party-led National Democratic Alliance for the upcoming Assembly election in Tamil Nadu.

Mr. Dhinakaran is the nephew of V.K. Sasikala, former interim general secretary of the AIADMK.

The issue was said to have been deliberated during a late-night meeting between leaders of the AIADMK and the BJP on Sunday, in which Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh, AIADMK co-coordinator and Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and party coordinator-Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam took part.

The BJP is said to have indicated that it would allot seats from its share to the AMMK.

In view of the idea “not finding favour” among many of its leaders, including a few Ministers, the ruling party deputed senior leaders, including K.P. Munusamy and R. Vaithilingam, to impress upon the BJP its stand on the issue during another round of discussions that took place at a star hotel on Monday evening.

The national party was represented by Pon Radhakrishnan, former Union Minister, and L. Murugan, president of the party’s State unit.

Though no leader of either camp was willing to go on record about what transpired during Sunday’s meeting, a section of AIADMK leaders said the issue had been discussed.

The indication from the BJP is that it would be better to include the AMMK in the coalition.

A senior BJP leader said that in at least 25 constituencies, the AMMK would make or mar the prospects of the coalition. “As the election is going to be fiercely contested between the fronts led by the AIADMK and the DMK, you stand to lose, rather than gain, by leaving the AMMK out,” the leader contended.

As of now, the national party’s leaders have been stating publicly that the question of a patch-up between the AIADMK and the AMMK is an “internal matter” for the two parties.

Several AIADMK functionaries from the southern districts are, however, receptive to the idea of accommodating the AMMK, which received a 9.3% vote-share in nine Assembly constituencies in the south during the 2019 by-elections.

But in the run-up to Ms. Sasikala’s release from a Bengaluru jail last month, the AIADMK took a strong stand against her and expelled many second-rung and third-rung functionaries from the party for having pasted posters in her favour or having associated themselves with her in one form or the other. A U-turn would draw a “severe backlash” and reflect very badly on the image of the party, argued an AIADMK leader who is opposed to a patch-up with the AMMK or Ms. Sasikala.

Another issue being discussed in AIADMK circles is the symbol under which the AMMK’s nominees should contest, in the event of the party getting accommodated in the alliance. Those in the ruling party who are supportive of the AMMK feel there should be no objection to the latter’s candidates being fielded on the former’s symbol of ‘two leaves’, a scenario the AMMK office-bearers don’t relish, given the fact that their party secured the ‘pressure cooker’ symbol after a protracted struggle.

Notwithstanding the complexity of the issues, the ruling party and the BJP say clarity would emerge in a day or two.

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