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The controversy over the demand for unitary leadership in the AIADMK took a new turn on Monday, with the camp led by coordinator O. Panneerselvam demanding the postponement of the party’s general council meeting, scheduled to be held in Chennai on Thursday (June 23).

The group led by co-coordinator Edappadi K. Palaniswami, also known as the ‘pro-changers’, insisted that the event be held as per schedule. It favored the replacement of the present arrangement of dual leadership with single leadership.

In a letter addressed to Mr. Palaniswami, the party coordinator and one of the deputy coordinators, R. Vaithilingam – both representing the ‘no-changers’ – stated that the issue of leadership, which was raised at a meeting of the party’s district secretaries and headquarters’ functionaries on June 14 without any prior notice, had caused “heartburn” among the workers of the party. Some of the district secretaries and the headquarters’ office-bearers had expressed their views “without knowing the by-laws and realising [the significance of the by-laws]”. Confusion prevailed among the cadre and the people. An “abnormal situation”, caused by the damage to the reputation of the party on account of the view [which favoured the restoration of single leadership in the party]had arisen, which might create a law and order problem, they said.

Also, several district secretaries, headquarters’ functionaries and members of the general council and the executive had complained that they had not received the agenda note for the proposed deliberations, they said.

On the decision not to have special invitees for the upcoming general council meeting, Mr Panneerselvam and Mr Vaithilingam recalled that it had been the norm to invite former Ministers, district secretaries, parliamentarians legislators and all those who had worked for the party, by according to them the status of special invitees. When the general council meetings took place at the present venue during the general secretaryship of Jayalalithaa, the special invitees had been asked to attend the meetings.

Mr Vaithilingam, who revealed the contents of the letter at a press meet at the residence of Mr Panneerselvam in Chennai, claimed to have the support of 15 district secretaries, apart from “the rank and file” of the party. Fifteen more district secretaries had conveyed to his camp that they would stay “neutral”, he said. Among those present on the occasion were organization secretary JC.D. Prabhakar, steering committee member Manoj Pandian and former MP V. Maitreyan.

Meanwhile, another deputy coordinator, KP Munusamy, told reporters that even Mr. Panneerselvam, at the meeting last week, endorsed the move not to have special invitees at the general council this time. It was only after his [Mr. Panneerselvam’s] concurring observations that the decision was made. A few days ago, the coordinator himself had taken part in the discussion of the resolution-drafting committee and had given his inputs with regard to drafting some motions. “After all this, we do not know why he is now expressing a different opinion,” Mr. Munusamy said.

When asked whether the general council would adopt any motion regarding single leadership, the deputy coordinator said it would not be proper to comment on what the body would or would not do. “A few opportunists” were trying to “defame” the party for their “personal interests”, he said.

On the letter sent by Mr. Panneerselvam and Mr. Vaithilingam, the deputy coordinator said he was yet to receive it. However, he expressed the hope that the coordinator, a long-standing member of the party, would attend the meeting and go by the decisions of the council.

Mr Munusamy added that more than 2,000 members of the council [out of a total of around 2,700] had written to the party, urging the leadership to hold the meeting as planned. Accompanied by other senior office-bearers of the party, including Dindigul C. Sreenivasan, KA Sengottaiyan, C.Ve. Shanmugam and P. Thangamani, the deputy coordinator visited the venue of the general council meeting to oversee the preparations for the event.

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