After months of speculation and back-and-forth meetings and speeches, the warring Edappadi Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam factions of the AIADMK have finally merged.
It was on February 7 that former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam dramatically announced his rebellion against the AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala. Since then, the rumours of a potential reunion have waxed and waned every few weeks.
Finally, over the last week, it seemed that the road had been paved for the two factions to come together once more. However, Monday morning was not without its last-minute drama. It was originally announced that OPS would arrive at the AIADMK headquarters by 12pm.
However, noon came and went without OPS venturing out, as Edappadi Palaniswami’s faction did not put out a formal declaration distancing themselves from VK Sasikala and her family.
Further negotiations finally yielded fruit, with the EPS government agreeing to announce that Sasikala would be removed from the post of General Secretary. With this assurance, OPS agreed to merge his faction with the EPS faction.
While TN CM reached the AIADMK headquarters around 2.20 pm, O Panneerselvam made his entry post 2.30 pm, even as jubilant cadre members thronged the headquarters.
“No one can separate us. We are fulfilling the dreams of crores of cadres and doing this merger,” OPS declared.
“From now on, we will work towards fulfilling Amma's dreams,” he added, thanking the leaders of both factions.
An 11-member Committee has been set up to guide the party. OPS has been appointed as the Coordinator, with EPS as Joint Coordinator, and KP Munusamy and Rajya Sabha MP Vaithilingam as Deputy Coordinators.
"Those hoping to split the party will be heartbroken," declared EPS. He added that the Two Leaves symbol will be recovered by the party.
Following the merger, OPS is being sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister, along with the portfolios of Finance, Housing and Urban Development, among other portfolios. Mafoi Pandiarajan is receiving the portfolios of Tamil language and Culture and Archaeology.
Even as the EPS and OPS factions struck celebratory tones, the TTV Dhinakaran faction continued making threatening noises. Ahead of the merger, while spokesperson CR Saraswathi said that EPS and OPS had both betrayed Sasikala, TTV supporter Nanjil Sampath said that action would be taken against MLAs who went to meet the “traitor” OPS, and asserted that only TTV was eligible to run the party.
It has been speculated that the merger has been brokered by the BJP, with both EPS and OPS meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.