In the ongoing battle before the Election Commission of India for the control of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) between jailed leader V.K.Sasikala and former Chief Minister O.Panneerselvam, the party’s Rules and Regulations, as amended on February 5, 2007, appear to be loaded against Sasikala. She was “appointed” interim general secretary by the party’s general council on December 29, 2016.
First, Rule 20 (ii) of the AIADMK’s Rules and Regulations states: “The general secretary shall be elected by the primary members of all the party units in Tamil Nadu and the members of the party in other States like Pondicherry, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Andaman Islands.”
Appointed, not elected
Sasikala was not elected by the party’s primary members but appointed by 2,090 of the 2,141 members of the general council. In her representation to the EC, she has interpreted — by extension — that “the general council represents the wishes of the entire party’s primary members in as much as the branch secretary in each unit is elected by the party’s primary members and the branch secretary elects the union secretary and the town secretaries in villages and towns respectively”. However, the Panneerselvam camp has countered this in its representation, by pointing to Rule 43 of the party dealing with “Amendments”. This rule, brought in by late party leader Jayalalithaa, prohibits indirect election/appointment of the party general secretary.
It reads: “The general council will have powers to frame, amend or delete any of the Rules of the Party Constitution. But the Rule that the general secretary should be elected only by all the primary members of the party cannot be changed or amended since it forms the basic structure of the party (emphasis added).”
Secondly, Rule 30 (v), dealing with elections to the party units, mandates that those wanting to contest for the posts of office bearers should have been members of the party for five years “without any break”. Those who leave the party in between or are removed from the party by the general secretary upon disciplinary action will cease to be party members. Significantly, it says, “If such persons have been re-admitted into the party, their membership will be taken into account only from their date of readmission and they will get the eligibility to contest the organisational elections only after five years.”
On five years, and more
Jayalalithaa had on December 19, 2011, expelled Sasikala, her nephew T.T.V. Dinakaran (now deputy general secretary) and 12 others from the primary membership of the party. She re-admitted Sasikala alone on March 31, 2012. Therefore, on the date she was appointed general secretary, Sasikala had not completed five years continuously as party member.
In her defence, Sasikala contended that since the disciplinary proceedings were cancelled, it would mean that her original primary membership was restored and that the effect of Jayalalithaa’s communication dated March 31, 2012 “is as if Sasikala had never been expelled from the party.”
Countering this, the Panneerselvam camp said her expulsion was merely terminated and “not reversed”.
Thirdly, Sasikala informed the EC that after Jayalalithaa’s death that it was essential to appoint a general secretary as the party headquarters officer bearers “cannot collectively discharge the functions of the general secretary”.
Rejecting this, the Panneerselvam faction said that Para 2 of Rule 20 (v) provided for such collective leadership. It states: “If for any reason, the post of general secretary becomes vacant in between, the office bearers who were nominated by the previous general secretary will hold office and continue to function till the new general secretary is elected and assumes office.” Therefore, it is being argued that the office bearers appointed by Jayalalithaa would “operate as regents to the position of the general secretary”.
Jayalalithaa, significantly, did not appoint a deputy general secretary, who shall assume the powers of the general secretary in her absence. While E. Madhusudhanan was elected presidium chairman by the general council, Panneerselvam and Edappadi K. Palaniswami (Chief Minister) were nominated by Jayalalithaa as treasurer and headquarters secretary respectively. These were the only three vital posts in the party hierarchy, excluding that of the general secretary. The EC will, on March 22, hear representatives of both camps and subsequently decide on the plea to quash Sasikala’s appointment and nullify all decisions taken by her.
‘No parallels with 1989’
In her affidavit filed before the ECI, AIADMK leader V K Sasikala has drawn parallels between the current crisis in the party with that of the split between the Jayalalithaa and Janaki factions after the death of party founder M.G.Ramachandran in 1987. She said the two factions had reunited in 1989 and Jayalalithaa was appointed General Secretary without resorting to Rule 20 (ii) [then Rule 19 (ii)]. Election to the post was held only in 1993.
Citing this, she has further argued that Rule 30 would not apply to “unanimous” appointments as General Secretary.
However, a second line leader said one cannot draw parallels with the past case as the party Rules were amended in February 2007. Also, the Panneerselvam camp has pointed out that MGR was not the general secretary when he died. Senior leader S. Raghavanandham was holding the post then