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Wrangling over AIADMK leadership clouds Jayalalithaa's death anniversary event

A scuffle broke out between loyalists of Dhinakaran and AIADMK cadres

A statue of late AIADMK supremo and former chief minister Jayalalithaa at party headquarters in Chennai | PTI A statue of late AIADMK supremo and former chief minister Jayalalithaa at party headquarters in Chennai | PTI

Claims over leadership became the focal point at the former AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa's death anniversary event held in Chennai on Sunday with the main opposition party in Tamil Nadu, led by O. Panneerselvam and K. Palaniswami, asserting that it is a 'fortress' that cannot be shaken by anyone.

While V.K. Sasikala's supporters hailed her as the 'political heir' of Jayalalithaa and 'AIADMK's general secretary,' her nephew T.T.V. Dhinakaran-led Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) vowed to democratically retrieve the AIADMK.

The fifth death anniversary event of the former Tamil Nadu chief minister witnessed tense moments for a while when supporters of Dhinakaran allegedly tried to gherao senior AIADMK leaders including K. Palaniswami on the arterial Kamarajar Salai while they exited the Marina beachfront memorial premises of Jayalalithaa in their vehicles.

Also, a scuffle broke out between loyalists of Dhinakaran and AIADMK cadres who raised slogans and counter-slogans while policemen whisked away some of them from the spot.

Led by top leaders Panneeerselvam and Palaniswami, the AIADMK workers, who thronged Jayalalithaa's memorial, pledged to not allow "enemies to win through divide and rule conspiracies."

No one was, however, explicitly named by the AIADMK in its pledge, that was read out by Panneerselvam, while others followed him.

The AIADMK is a fortress that cannot be shaken by anyone, howsoever mighty and vowed to be united and protect the party, it said.

The pledge event led by Sasiakala at the memorial exhorted cadres to rally behind her and get united under her leadership so that the AIADMK could capture power again in the state.

The oath, that was read out, hailed Sasikala as the AIADMK's "general secretary, the revolutionary mother, Chinnamma (younger mother)," and underscored that it was essential to join hands for the party to win future elections and trounce political opponents.

To usher in the AIADMK regime, "let us join hands under her leadership and let us emerge victorious."

The pledge ceremony, presided by AMMK general secretary Dhinakaran, apparently targeted the AIADMK leadership.

The AMMK pledge said the 'selfishness' of a few people has caused the movement, a reference to the AIADMK, losing its uniqueness and identity as well and vowed to retrieve the parent party through the 'democratic weapon' which is the outfit run by him.

The 'selfishness' jibe is obviously aimed at Panneerselvam and Palaniswami and their supporters, though they were not named.

The Dhinakaran led outfit also slammed the DMK as an 'evil force' and accused it of double standards in many issues including the Mullaiperiyar and NEET.

The AMMK said it is marching ahead under the leadership of Dhinakaran with the wishes of 'Thiyaga Thalaivi (leader of sacrifices) Chinnamma.' Jayalalithaa is hailed as Amma by her followers.

The pledge taking ceremony by both the AIADMK and Dhinkaran-led outfit on the Jayalalithaa memorial premises targeted the ruling DMK.

While the AIADMK alleged that the DMK won the recent rural civic polls through 'several conspiracies' and 'power,' the principal opposition also hit out at the TN's ruling party for trying to overwhelm them by foisting many false cases.

Hailing the previous AIADMK governments steered by Jayalalithaa for its several initiatives, it slammed the DMK government for 'family rule' and vowed to "tear up the web of conspiracy to destroy the party."

At Jayalalithaa's mausoleum, which is part of a larger, state of the art phoenix model memorial dedicated to the former chief minister's memory on the Marina beachfront, Pannneerselvam, Palaniswami and other AIADMK leaders, many of them in black shirts, were the first to lay wreaths and pay homage followed by Sasikala, Dhinakaran and a string of others.

Sasikala looked teary when she placed the wreath while her supporters hailed her as 'Chinnamma.'

Besides leaders, many ordinary workers, many of them women could be spotted at the memorial site.

Jayalalithaa died on December 5, 2016.

On the anniversary occasion, AIADMK workers paid floral tributes to her portraits across Tamil Nadu and distributed welfare assistance to beneficiaries and some organised community meal programmes.

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