CHENNAI: A tweet by former AIADMK MP Maithreyan in 2017 still stands true even after three years in AIADMK: “Thought the factions have merged, hearts have not come together yet.” Though the party issued a statement right after a high-level meeting on Friday, the meeting brought all the issues from CM candidature to the 11-member steering committee to the fore. The controversy over the party’s CM candidate for the 2021 Assembly election once again sparked off a rift between team  EPS-OPS.

AIADMK Convener O. Panneerselvam called for the party high command meeting at the party office on Friday and the meeting was attended by all the ministers, and the party’s high command members. As all the important leaders were scheduled to attend the meeting, party cadres gathered in large number at the party office and as soon as OPS reached the office his supporters started raising “future CM and Amma’s political heir” slogans, while “Permanent Chief Minister” slogans were raised by the EPS supporters at the party office.

The meeting went on for almost one-and-a-half hours and it turned out to be a stormy session as the members from the team OPS raised the issue of constituting a 11-member steering committee as agreed by both the factions during the merger in 2017. Many seniors in the party also feel that constituting this committee is important as all the party related decisions are taken by a select few in both the factions. But co-convener Edappadi Palaniswami is not inclined to the move and sources say that he has said that constituting any such committee will further create more trouble as everyone in the 11-member committee will have an opinion and there will be problems in selecting the members for the Committee. EPS has made it clear that it is not feasible to constitute the 11-member committee.

“EPS and OPS are political workers; they are not leaders, and once they are out of power, they will be thrown out. There will be big change in the party; AIADMK needs a strong face and a leader to lead the party to 2021 elections,” said a close confidant of Sasikala and ex MLA Vetrivel. He also added that there will be another rebellion after the candidate selection for the 2021 elections and AIADMK needs a single leadership and this dual leadership will be of no use if they are not in power.

Political analysts also suggest that AIADMK cannot afford party infighting, that, too, when elections are round the corner and point out that though there were fiery discussions at the high-level committee meeting, leaders were clear that they should project a unified face or it will affect the prospects of the party in the upcoming elections.

Party sources say that apart from this, another senior minister raised concerns about the importance given to a few caste/sect people and he demanded that representation and importance should be given to others also in the party. This issue is being raised when there are talks about Gounder and Thevar community ministers and office-bearers enjoying more privileges in the party. It is important to note that Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi Palaniswami is from the Gounder community and O. Panneerselvam is from the Thevar community.

As several demands were raised at the high command meeting on Friday, AIADMK has called for a party executive council meeting on September 28 to discuss and sort out differences and arrive at a conclusion before the election work begins. Any decision taken in the executive council meeting will have to be ratified by the party General Council and this will again buy time for the leaders to make their next move before the elections.

Since the issues of party infighting have surfaced, AIADMK ministers have started to water down the controversies. While addressing the media on Saturday, Minister Udayakumar said that both the leaders EPS-OPS are in an understanding like Lord “Ram and Lakshaman” and there are no differences in the party.