Day before Amit Shah’s visit, AIADMK holds meet

Veteran AIADMK leaders expressed their dissatisfaction during the consultative meeting of the party on Friday the that their ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is reluctant to accept chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) as the candidate for the top job in the upcoming 2021 assembly elections, said a party leader on the condition of anonymity. This leader was part of the high-level meeting.

The timing of the consultative meet of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) with Palaniswami, his deputy O Paneerselvam (OPS), senior ministers, district secretaries and zonal in-charges at the party headquarters holds significance as it comes a day ahead of Union home minister Amit Shah’s visit to Chennai to participate in government programmes and hold internal meetings with the BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit.

“Only those who accept EPS as the chief ministerial candidate can remain with us,” a veteran leader reportedly said in the meeting. But Palaniswami pacified the situation and maintained that their relationship is cordial and that the BJP’s state and central leadership had not caused them any trouble or obstructions, the party official said.

Last month, after days of internal power tussles, Paneerselvam officially announced Palaniswami as the AIADMK’s chief minister candidate as they made their bid to secure a third consecutive term in Tamil Nadu.

Friday’s meeting focussed on enumeration of voters amongst other election related matters, the party leader cited above said.

The party planned to introduce a special women’s booth-level committee. “This is a first in the history of the AIADMK,” said steering and manifesto committee member JCD Prabharkar. “Normally there is a general booth committee that includes men, women and young cadre. We are going to introduce an exclusive booth committee of women.”

The aim, he said, is to appease women voters who outnumber the male electorate in Tamil Nadu. Apsara R, who identifies as a transgender woman, re-joined the AIADMK on Friday after quitting the Congress.

“Both EPS and OPS are confident of the party coming back to power because people are comfortable with us, particularly in our handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The leaders reiterated that we have to stick together,” said the senior party leader.

The deliberations come at a time when the relationship of the AIADMK and the BJP is strained over the saffron party’s Vetrivel yatra (victorious spear march). The state government has denied permission citing the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, and AIADMK’s mouthpiece called it “divisive”. However, BJP members have continued with the yatra across Tamil Nadu since November 6, courting arrests and being let off later.

“AIADMK would have wanted to set its house in order so that they don’t speak in two voices when they meet Amit Shah,” said Ramu Manivannan, head, politics and public administrations department, University of Madras.

However, party leaders who were part of the meeting said they didn’t speak on the alliance, meeting with Shah or on the impending release of expelled leader VK Sasikala (late chief minister J Jayalalitha’s close aide) early next year. “We instructed district and regional secretaries on how to coordinate and effectively patrol the booths,” said Prabhakar.

Earlier in the day, in an interview to a vernacular media, AIADMK spokesperson and minister for fisheries D Jayakumar had said that they would raise the issue of the release of the seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case in their meeting with Shah.

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