AIADMK inches closer to merger as the party sacks Dinakaran

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Chennai : Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK on Thursday dumped its Deputy General Secretary T.T.V. Dinakaran, nephew of the jailed General Secretary V.K. Sasikala, in a move aimed at placating the rival faction ahead of a possible merger between the two groups.

The AIADMK decision was announced after a nearly one-hour meeting at the party office attended by Chief Minister K. Palaniswami and some 30 ministers and party leaders.

While there was no immediate reaction from the rival faction led by former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, a furious Dinakaran hit back.

Dinakaran -- who was made the Deputy General Secretary by Sasikala before she was jailed for corruption -- and his small band of supporters refused to accept the decision.

A resolution passed at the AIADMK meeting declared Dinakaran's appointment as "improper, unacceptable and invalid", clearing the decks for a possible unification of the two factions. 

An AIADMK statement said Sasikala's appointment itself was under scrutiny of the Election Commission, which was examining the issues raised by Panneerselvam who had challenged her leadership. 

The AIADMK used to refer to Sasikala until recently as "Chinnamma". The Thursday statement called her "Respectable Mrs V.K. Sasikala" - a clear sign of her weakening hold in a party she tried to take over after the death in December of then Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.

The two factions will have to unite if they need to get back the party's popular "two leaves" election symbol that has been frozen by the Election Commission.

Minus the frozen symbol, AIADMK leaders admit they will have problems taking on the DMK in the upcoming local body polls. 

The AIADMK meeting also nullified all the appointments of office bearers and other decisions made by Dinakaran. 

The Election Commission had earlier rejected a letter written by him in his capacity as Deputy General Secretary. 

According to AIADMK sources, Chief Minister Palaniswami and Panneerselvam are travelling to Delhi on Thursday to take part in the swearing in ceremony of Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and may meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The sources say that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been nudging the two factions to unite -- and also join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance formally. 

If a merger takes place, Palaniswami will remain the Chief Minister while Panneerselvam could become the General Secretary in place of Sasikala. The Panneerselvam faction insists on Sasikala's ouster for a merger to take place. 

Meanwhile, security has been tightened at the AIADMK headquarters here to foil the possibility of Dinakaran and his supporters trying to take control over it. 

An MLA close to Dinakaran, Vetrivel, who attended the AIADMK meeting, challenged the decision to dump Dinakaran.

"Sasikala and Dinakaran cannot be removed from the party," he said. "Nobody can remove the two leaders from their party posts."