In a setback for AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam or OPS, the Madras High Court on Monday gave its go-ahead to a crucial general council meeting to decide the future leadership structure of the party.
The court rejected a plea filed by OPS seeking a stay on the meeting called by the faction led by Edappady K Palaniswami, also known as EPS. While the meeting was scheduled to begin at 9:15 am, the court gave its order at 9 am.
The meeting can be conducted in accordance with the law, the court said.
In the meeting, the 2500-plus strong General Council, largely with pro-EPS members, adopted a resolution to revive the top party post of general secretary, abolishing the present dual leadership model. The meeting is also likely to strip O Panneerselvam’s position as Treasurer.
Earlier, the OPS camp had contended that only the Coordinator and the Joint Coordinator can convene the meeting as per law. And this meeting called by the newly-appointed Praesidium Chairman is technically illegal and hence untenable,
However, team EPS argued that dual leadership is no longer in force as the previous meeting held on June 23 did not ratify the election of both leaders and hence the Presidium Chairman convening the meeting, and the headquarters office-bearers sending invites are legal.
They also pointed out OPS was appointed as the party boss in 2017 adopting the same model.
Last week, the Supreme Court permitted team EPS to convene the meeting following the law. While EPS wanted single leadership, OPS wanted the present dual leadership model to continue.
At the meeting venue in Vangaram, there were no posters of OPS, but only MGR, EPS and Jayalalithaa’s cut-outs had been put up. Supporters of both factions were seen on camera throwing stones at each other outside the party headquarters in Chennai ahead of the high court verdict. Visuals also showed some people damaging vehicles parked nearby.
Jayalalithaa had twice handpicked OPS to be her stand-in-chief minister when she had to step down following her conviction. Though OPS was elevated for the third time just before she died, Jayalalithaa’s aide VK Sasikala, who briefly took over the party, replaced him with EPS after he rebelled against her.
She announced EPS as Chief Minister before she went to jail in the disproportionate assets case in which Jayalalithaa was the prime accused.
However, in a sensational political twist, both leaders patched up and expelled Sasikala when she was in jail. OPS became the number one in the party and EPS his deputy. In the government, OPS became Chief Minister EPS’ deputy.
During his four-year term as chief minister, EPS consolidated his position and brought the party under his control.