The AIADMK faction led by former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Friday ruled out talks with the rival faction headed by Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy on a merger unless it declares that Sasikala and her family members are formally expelled from the party.
The group also kept its cards close to its chest on which party or candidate it would support in the Presidential election slated in July.
"Our group has launched a dharma yudh for upholding the principles laid down by the late MGR and Jayalalithaa that the party should not go into the hands of any family, least of all into the hands of Sasikala and TTV Dhinakaran. Even now the official party organ 'Namadhu MGR' carries statements in the name of Deputy General Secretary TTV Dhinakaran.
"How can we take a decision to enter into talks with them (the faction headed by Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy) in such circumstances," Panneerselvam told a press conference after meeting the Election Commission.
The day the rival faction led by the Chief Minister declares that they have thrown out Sasikala and Dhinakaran, there will be smooth resumption of merger talks, he said.
To a question on who was the stumbling block in the merger talks, Panneerselvam said the media understood all the issues and why the merger process was "slow". "People know who are the stumbling blocks. We have taken a decision that we will stick to the basics of the principles laid down by MGR and Jayalalithaa and keep family rule out," he said.
In reply to another question on whose hands were dominating the rival faction, K Munuswamy, a senior leader of his faction and a former minister, said even now the party was being run by Dhivaharan, another relative of Sasikala. "Benami hands are still dominating the party. They (chief minister's side) have still not expelled them (Sasikala and Dhinakaran). Only middle rung leaders are saying this. We have two demands -- a CBI probe into the death of Jayalalithaa and expulsion of Sasikala and Dhinakaran. Once that is done, it is very easy to resume merger talks."
He said the people and AIADMK cadre are with his faction and this will be proved by the people in times to come. It was already visible during the recently-countermanded by-election to RK Nagar constituency in Chennai.
The former chief minister was replying to a question on renewed efforts of DMK working President MK Stalin, who has launched a campaign to reconnect with people, which is seen as a bid to come back to power.
Asked about the group's strategy in the presidential election, Panneerselvam said the election has not been announced nor has any candidate or party made any declaration. Once that is done, the party leadership will meet and take a decision, he added.