Election Commission freezes AIADMK's two leaves symbol, just like in 1989
Election Commission freezes AIADMK's two leaves symbol, just like in 1989

Election Commission freezes AIADMK's two leaves symbol, just like in 1989

The candidates will now have to contest on any of the unreserved symbols.

History repeated itself on Wednesday when the Election Commission announced the freezing of AIADMK's two leaves symbol with the two factions - one led by VK Sasikala and the other by O Panneerselvam - staking claim to it.

The candidates will now have to contest on any of the unreserved symbols. 

"Commission is not in a position to give any final decision at the present juncture in the short time available mentioned above.  Consequently, the Commission is left with no other option in these compelling circumstances but to make an interim order which may be fair to both the contending groups," the ECI said, ruling that neither of the AIADMK factions can use the symbol or the name of the party. 

Here is the operational part of the order: 

"(a) Neither of the two groups led by the petitioners (Shri E. Madhusudhanan, Shri O Panneerselvam and Shri S. Semmalai) and the respondents (Smt. V.K. Sasikala and Shri TTV Dhinakaran) shall be permitted to use the name of the party ‘All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’ simplicitor;
(b) Neither of the aforesaid two groups shall also be permitted to use the symbol ‘Two Leaves’, reserved for ‘All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’;
(c) Both the groups shall be known by such names as they may choose for their respective groups, showing, if they so desire, linkage with their parent party ‘All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’; and
(d) Both the groups shall also be allotted such different symbols as they may choose from the list of free symbols notified by the Election Commission for the purposes of the current bye-election"

The move comes ahead of the RK Nagar bye-poll, scheduled for April 12. While Sasikala's side was represented by lawyers and Congress leaders Salman Khurshid and Veerappa Moily, and lawyer Mohan Parasaram, the Panneerselvam faction was represented by Gurukrishna Kumar, Manoj Pandian, and Vaidyanathan.

The last time the AIADMK symbol was frozen was in 1989 following the demise of former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran, when his wife Janaki Ramachandran and protégée Jayalalithaa competed for it ahead of the Assembly elections.

The EC's decision followed a hearing on Wednesday, with both factions presenting their arguments. While former CM OPS' camp staked claim to the two leaves symbol on the grounds that they had the support of a majority of the party cadre, Sasikala's faction informed the EC that most AIADMK MLAs and MPs were on its side.

The OPS camp told the Election Commission that the 5706 affidavits that they have submitted, signed by party office bearers, display the support of 43,36,628 party members.

Freezing the two leaves symbol is likely to hurt the chances of TTV Dhinakaran, who is Sasikala's candidate, and E Madhusudhanan, the veteran leader fielded by OPS.

Opposition parties the DMK and the BJP are likely to benefit from this move, as 'the rising sun' and the 'lotus' are the recognised party symbols for this North Chennai electorate.

However, speaking to the media following the EC's decision, Dhinakaran said he remains the candidate for the RK Nagar bye-elections and will file his nominations at 11am on Thursday. He also said, "This is only an interim order and not a final one. We will approach the Supreme Court over the issue. We have seen an experience like this in the past as well. We will win and get back the two leaves symbol. We are confident." 

The bitter and ugly split in the AIADMK comes more than three months after the demise of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. Her constituency - RK Nagar - will in many ways be a battle for her legacy. Her niece Deepa Jayakumar has also thrown her hat into the ring, making her political debut with this bye-poll.

The Election Commission is also expected to pass orders on the legality of Sasikala's appointment as AIADMK General Secreatry. OPS had challenged her appointment stating that the General Council had nominated her rather than the party's primary members.

The former CM also termed her appointment invalid, arguing that the party's by-laws mandate that to contest for the post of General Secretary, a person needed to be a primary member for five years. Sasikala, he points out, was expelled by then party chief Jayalalithaa in December 2011 and brought back only in March 2012. As a result, Sasikala, was not qualified to be appointed interim General Secretary.

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