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Thursday 20 February 2020

EPS & OPS: Never the twain shall meet?

Chennai — Till around 8 PM yesterday, it appeared as if the deal is done and the 2 leaders, E Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam will make a joint visit to J Jayalalithaa’s samadhi and, after paying their respects to the soul, make the announcement of their merger public. In anticipation of it, many MLAs and hundreds of party cadre reached the temporary memorial on the Marina Beach, bursting crackers burst and distributing sweets. The two leaders were also expected to reach the party headquarters after that, for which preparations were afoot.

But with time, the supporters’ hopes turned into disappointment. It started raining heavily and, by 9 PM, it became clear that the merger was not happening on Friday.

There is no clarity about the sticking point. Reportedly, some of the senior leaders associated with Panneerselvam were not fully convinced that the measures taken by the EPS camp were conducive to them on the very evening of their leader’s act of meditating at Jaya’s samadhi and his dramatic announcement of rebelling against VK Sasikala.

Those who blocked the merger were upset with the fact that the resolution passed a few days ago by the Palaniswami faction had not mentioned anything clearly about the position of Sasikala. It only stated that Dinakaran’s appointment as deputy general secretary was not valid. Even on the issue of the inquiry into the treatment and death of Jayalalithaa, the OPS group felt their leader must insist on a CBI investigation rather than by a retired High Court judge that the rival camp has proposed.

Our sources say, in the 4-5 hour-long discussion that took place at the residence of OPS, some leaders expressed the desire to ensure a larger role of theirs in the party post-merger. They fear that they will be marginalised once the merger happens. It is also related to the complexities within the party related to the leaders’ districts and constituencies.

KP Munusamy is one of the leaders blocking the merger according to our sources. He was a former minister who was kept in the wilderness for the last few years. He wants his name to be included in a high-powered panel being constituted in the party to guide the party’s activities.

While it is more or less accepted that 2 persons, ‘Ma Foi’ K Pandiarajan and S Semmalai, who were ministers in Jayalalithaa’s Cabinet, will be re-inducted, along with OPS. An MLA or two are nursing ambitions of being made ministers, to which the other camp may not agree.

When Jayalalithaa died, Panneerselvam was appointed as her successor that very night. He did not drop one minister nor added any. Not even the portfolios were touched. OPS had already been handed over all the departments that were directly under JJ.

When Palaniswami took over, some minor changes were effected. Panneerselvam’s portfolios were taken over by the new chief minister and only one new minister was inducted: Sengottaiyan. The new minister was given the portfolio of education earlier held by Pandiaraja who had switched camps.

A conflict between OPS’s Thevar and EPS’s Gounder castes may surface sooner or later.

Left to himself, Panneerselvam may wish to go ahead with the merger and be done with it. Further delays will affect the public perception of him.

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