As Amma lay in hospital, how AIADMK avoided a split on caste lines

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Chennai, Dec 9: When Jayalalithaa lay in hospital strapped to an ECMO device at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai, there was hectic activity to elect a successor.

The Gounder and Thevar communities which are the most influential caste groups in the AIADMK did try to make a push to ensure that their candidate would be the chief minister.

How AIADMK avoided a split on caste line

When Jayalalithaa lay in hospital strapped to an ECMO device at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai, there was hectic activity to elect a successor. The Gounder and Thevar communities which are the most influential caste groups in the AIADMK tried to make a push to ensure that their candidate would be the chief minister.

While O Paneerselvam was a natural choice since he has been de-facto chief minister twice in the past, the name of Thambidurai, the deputy speaker in the Lok Sabha did the rounds too. Thambidurai belongs to the Gounder community and was a strong contender for the post.

Sasikala wanted to avoid a split:

As the discussions at the Apollo Hospital began, all the MLAs of the AIADMK were told to assemble at the party headquarters. There were five ministers at the hospital who held discussions about a successor in the presence of Jayalalithaa's close aide, Sasikala Natarajan. Thambidurai had become a strong contender for the post of chief minister, but Sasikala, espite being inclined towards him decided against it.

She felt that at the moment there should be no change in the party structure. She felt that Paneerselvam had stepped in for Jayalalithaa twice in the past and this precedent ought to continue. Despite the group supporting Thambidurai making a strong pitch, Sasikala managed to talk them out of it.

She felt that the existing system must continue to avoid any kind of split especially at such a difficult time. She even rejected demands that new persons must be inducted into the cabinet. Once the decision was made, Paneerselvam went to the party headquarters and announced that Jayalalithaa had passed away.

All the MLAs were given four pieces of paper to sign. One was a resolution to elect unanimously Paneerselvam as the leader of the party in the legislature, while the other was intimating the governor about the decision. The other two papers were letters to the secretary of the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly and the Centre.

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