Chennai: A day after an open spar over the AIADMK’s 2021 chief minsiterial candidate, party coordinator and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Tuesday stayed away from an official review meet on COVID-19 chaired by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. Instead, he held parleys with a few leaders who had sided with him during his 2017 ‘Dharma Yudh’ opposing VK Sasikala, the long time aide of former AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa.
Sources indicated that Panneerselvam, who had held the post of Chief Minister on three occasions – twice as stand-in for Jayalalithaa and once after her death – was sulking after being nearly outwitted by Palaniswami at the party’s executive committee meeting on Monday.
“Having agreed to merge his AIADMK faction with the one led by Palaniswami three years ago at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Panneerselvam had lost the plot when he chose to be deputy to Palaniswami in the Government. That was a costly mistake and as head of Government, Palaniswami has successfully pushed Panneerselvam to a role seen as second fiddle,” said a political analyst.
On Tuesday, the party’s deputy coordinators KP Munusamy and R Vaithilingam along with former Rajya Sabha MP PH Manoj pandian, met Panneerselvam at his house. Though Vaithilingam described it as a “personal meeting”, it was clear that the discussion was political. Though Munusamy is a strong opponent of Sasikala, it remains to be seen if he would stand by Panneerselvam’s ambition to be projected as Chief Ministerial candidate.
MLA Manikandan, who is the only minister to be dropped from the Palaniswami cabinet, also met Panneerselvam. In the evening, Revenue Minister RB Udhayakumar, the first prominent man to propose Sasikala as Chief Minister after Jayalalithaa’s death, also met Panneerselvam, ostensibly to convey to him that he should give up his claim for the top role.