Edappadi K Palaniswami was sworn in as the third general secretary of the AIADMK on Tuesday, 28 March, as the Madras High Court held that there were no legal impediments in electing him as the General Secretary of the party.
Minutes after the Madras High Court dismissed the petitions challenging the election of the AIADMK general secretary, the party headquarters declared that Palaniswami was elected as its general secretary.
"கழகப் பொதுச் செயலாளர்" தேர்ந்தெடுக்கப்பட்டதற்கான முடிவு அறிவிப்பு! pic.twitter.com/ZNuzkvKbfU
— AIADMK (@AIADMKOfficial) March 28, 2023
At the AIADMK headquarters on Lloyds Road in Chennai, the party’s election commissioners Pollachi V Jayaraman and Natham R Viswanathan handed over the winner’s certificate to Palaniswami.
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Court rules in favour of Palaniswami
The Madras High Court on Tuesday dismissed the interlocutory petitions challenging the election of the general secretary of the AIADMK and also the resolutions passed by the general council meeting held on 11 July, 2022.
Dismissing the petitions filed by O Panneerselvam, PH Arvindh Pandian, R Vaithilingam and JCD Prabhakar, Justice K Kumaresh Babu held that he found no reasons to interfere in the general council meeting that was held last year.
“I do not find any prima facie case, the balance of convenience or irreparable injury in favour of the applicants, but on the other hand, I find that the injunction as prayed for is granted, an irreparable injury would be caused to the first respondent (Palaniswami) as it would affect the functioning of the political party which has over 1.55 crores primary members in the State of Tamil Nadu,” the judge said.
“I already found there is a prima facie case in favour of respondents (EPS unit) in amending bye-laws; if the election is to be injuncted, it would affect the functioning of the party, recognized by the Election Commission of India without having a leader,” he added
The petitioners had challenged the special resolution that terminated them from the party and also the amendment made to revive the post of general secretary as well as the conditions to contest in the election.
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Celebrations at AIADMK HQ
Bursting crackers and distributing sweets, AIADMK cadres and functionaries celebrated outside the headquarters.
They greeted their new general secretary with garlands, bouquets, shawls, and portraits.
A functionary gifted Palaniswami with the trademark woollen cap and black coolers of MGR.
They also raised slogans hailing Palaniswami as the “permanent general secretary”.
Senior leaders, including KA Sengottian, D Jayakumar, Natham Vishwanath, and KP Munusamy, wished Palaniswami.
Taking charge as the general secretary, Palaniswami visited the memorials of AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran (MGR), and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, and paid respect to his colleagues.
As his first act after taking charge as AIADMK general secretary, Palaniswami announced that the membership enrolment drive of the party would begin on 5 April.
கழகத்தின் பொதுச் செயலாளராக தேர்ந்தெடுக்கப்பட்ட மாண்புமிகு திரு. @EPSTamilNadu அவர்கள், இதய தெய்வங்களான புரட்சித்தலைவர் எம்.ஜி.ஆர் மற்றும் புரட்சித்தலைவி அம்மா ஆகியோரது நினைவிடங்களுக்கு சென்று வணங்கி மரியாதை செலுத்தினார். 1(4)#கழக_பொதுச்செயலாளர்_எடப்பாடியார் pic.twitter.com/mth9OnNpIt
— AIADMK (@AIADMKOfficial) March 28, 2023
Speaking to reporters, Palaniswami thanked the cadres and the functionaries for electing him to the post.
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From the grassroots
The 68-year-old Palaniswami’s growth in the party in a career spanning close to 50 years has been steady.
Belonging to the dominant Kongu Vellala Gounder community, Palaniswami started his political career as a branch secretary in 1974 at his native village Siluvampalayam in the Salem district of Tamil Nadu.
During the split of the AIADMK after the death of MGR, Palaniswami stood on the side of Jayalalithaa.
Being a confidant of the late party supremo Jayalalithaa, Palaniswami held various party positions, including that of district secretary and party headquarters secretary.
He was subsequently inducted into the Cabinet of Jayalalithaa, where he held various portfolios.
He was also elected to the Lok Sabha in 1998.
Former minister Sellur K Raju told South First that EPS had come up from the grassroots and had the blessings of “Puratchi Thalaivar” (MGR) and “Amma” (Jayalalithaa).
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Legal battle with Sasikala, OPS
Palaniswami had a prolonged legal battle with Sasikala and O Panneerselvam.
After Panneerselvam’s revolt in early 2017, Palaniswami seized the opportunity and sided with Sasikala, who picked him as her choice to be the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
Once in the saddle, Palaniswami worked to cement his position and proved his mettle as an administrator both in the party and government, and Panneerselvam turned out to be a figurehead.
Subsequently, he revolted against Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran and evicted him from the party. Soon after, he expelled Sasikala from the party as well.
Sasikala filed a lawsuit challenging her expulsion from the party. The civil suit is pending in the Chennai Civil Court.
After the 2021 Assembly elections, Palaniswami, through his supporters, pitched for “single leadership”. The party was under his and Panneerselvam’s joint stwearship at that point.
On 11 July, 2022, the AIADMK general council passed a resolution electing EPS as the interim general secretary of the party, which was challenged in various courts.
On 23 February this year, the Supreme Court allowed him to continue as the party’s interim chief.
Subsequently, Pannerselvam and his supporters approached the high court challenging his nomination for the general secretary post.
The Madras High Court heard the pleas challenging the resolutions passed in the 11 July general council meeting and adjourned the case granting two weeks for the Palaniswami for filing his reply.
Meanwhile, on the same day, the election for general secretary was announced by the AIADMK headquarters.
Following it, OPS and others approached the Acting Chief Justice Bench, seeking an urgent hearing to stay the elections, claiming that their previous petitions are pending before a single judge.
Subsequently, the Acting CJ set up a single-judge bench. The case was heard by Justice Kumaresh Babu in a special sitting on 19 March, 2023.
After a marathon hearing, the judge reserved the order as the election notification and the orders were pronounced in the case on Tuesday, 28 March.
AIADMK treasurer Dindigul Srinivasan told South First: “The party will now be under one umbrella. The decision of the cadres has been legally validated. We will face the upcoming elections under a single leadership and will emerge victorious.”
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Carefully built image
Palaniswami carefully built his image as a leader from a humble background, coming from a farming family.
He often appeared in a green turban, used by farmers, during election campaigns.
He also ensured that none from his immediate family were in party posts, and effectively targeted the DMK for its “dynasty politics”.
AIADMK founder MG Ramachandran was the party’s first general secretary after he founded it in 1972.
Jayalalithaa was the second general secretary — from 1989 to 2016 — till her death.
Her confidante VK Sasikala was elected interim general secretary after her demise, but was later convicted and sentenced to a four-year prison term in a corruption case.