AIADMK cadres want the factions to merge and put up a united fight at the hustings in taking on the DMK-backed Congress candidate in the Erode East Assembly by-election, former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam claimed on Tuesday.
Personally, he was never averse to the merger of the AIADMK factions (led by him and another dominant one led by former Chief Minister K Palaniswami), Panneerselvam said and alleged that Palaniswami has been a stumbling block in the unification.
"I have never been an obstacle. The cadres' mindset is obvious. They want the party started by Puratchi Thalaivar (revolutionary leader as former Chief Minister M G Ramachandran is called) to remain united and be strong. You know who is preventing the merger," Panneerselvam said after calling on New Justice Party founder A C Shanmugam, who was a former AIADMK MP.
Post Jayalalithaa, Panneerselvam had merged his group with Palaniswami's faction and the latter became the Chief Minister after winning the floor test in the Assembly. In the run-up to the Assembly elections in 2021, Panneerselvam, then party coordinator, averted a split in the party by announcing Palaniswami as the Chief Ministerial candidate. But, following the poll debacle, the two leaders gradually started falling apart.
During his meeting with Shanmugam, Panneerselvam had sought support for his faction in the by-election in which former Union Minister E V K S Elangovan is contesting.
As if endorsing Panneerselvam's views on painting a picture of unity in taking on the DMK-Congress combine, Shanmugam claimed that during the meeting he urged the former to avoid nominating his candidate as two nominees for the same party would cause confusion.
"He (then) told me to bring the joint declaration forms to authorise the candidate to contest on behalf of the party," Shanmugan said and added that Palaniswami should also see the merits of the merger.
"I am willing to serve as bridge to unite the two factions, as a divided house will be disadvantageous only to the AIADMK," Shanmugam said.
The BJP leadership also did not want divisions in the Dravidian major since this would be a setback to the alliance, Shanmugam told reporters. He would meet Palaniswami soon to ensure unity.
"Even BJP State president K Annamalai expressed that the two factions should merge. I hope a solution will emerge in a couple of days' time," Shanmugam said.
Meanwhile, former interim general secretary V K Sasikala, said the factions should unite to defeat the Congress.