Having exhausted almost all options to prevent the AIADMK general council meeting from happening, party coordinator O Panneerselvam (OPS) moved the Madras High Court at midnight on Thursday, 23 June, pleading to reverse an order issued on 22 June.
An emergency hearing was called at Justice M Duraiswamy's house at 12.15 am on Thursday, following which the court ruled that no unannounced resolutions would be taken up at the meeting of the AIADMK general and executive councils.
The order passed at 4.30 am on Thursday said that only the 23 resolutions that have already been prepared by the party can be adopted during the general council meeting. The order, however, does not bar discussion on unitary leadership in the party.
The meeting of Tamil Nadu's main Opposition party's general council – its highest decision-making body – and the executive is set to be held at a wedding hall in Vanagaram near Chennai.
The first order from Wednesday refused to stall AIADMK's general council meeting scheduled for 23 June and prevent its bylaws from being amended, despite OPS pleading for relief.
If the bylaws were to be amended, Edappadi K Palaniswamy (EPS) could have been elected as the party's general secretary. Currently, EPS is the joint coordinator of the party.
While EPS has been vying for sole leadership of the party, OPS wants the status quo or dual leadership to remain.
What Did the Court Say?
The court's midnight order, therefore, restrained the camp led by EPS from initiating any such move over possible single leadership.
In a late-night hearing that stretched till early Thursday, a special division bench of Justices M Duraiswamy and Sundar Mohan granted relief to Panneerselvam at a special sitting at the senior judge's residence at Anna Nagar in the city, on an appeal against a single-judge order.
As per the latest order of the bench, the meeting can take place as scheduled and the previously decided 23 resolutions can be taken up and adopted. No other new resolutions, touching upon making amendments to party by-laws to abolish co-ordinator and joint co-ordinator posts and restoring the general secretary post to pave way for single leadership, shall be taken up.
What Was Argued Before HC?
For most, Thursday morning's developments seemed like a repeat of the 2017 chaos in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) that broke out after former Chief Minister J Jayalalitha's demise in December 2016.
OPS' counsel told the court that he received 23 resolutions from the AIADMK headquarters via e-mail on 21 June and that these were to be passed at the general council meeting on 23 June.
He said he was willing to approve them if EPS gave the assurance that no other agenda would be discussed.
EPS' counsel responded by stating that the decision to have dual leadership in the party was discussed during a general council meeting without it being part of the agenda.
Leaders Switch to Palaniswami's Camp
It is to be noted that Jayalalithaa had twice handpicked OPS to be her successor. However, when Jayalaithaa's aide VK Sasikala briefly took over the party, EPS became the CM. Later, Sasikala was ousted from the party when EPS and OPS joined hands.
"Palaniswami (EPS) enjoys massive support. We've seen in the past when Pannerselvam (OPS) went solo and called for support, he failed. He had to join hands with the latter. Panneerselvam has a handful of leaders who stand by him and even many of the loyalists have left him," said a source in the AIADMK.
Panneerselvam seemed to have lost support as a group of his supporters, including several former ministers, district secretaries, headquarters functionaries, and members of the general council, have shifted their loyalties to Palaniswami.
Some such prominent leaders include KP Munusamy, Natham R Vishwanathan Mafoi Pandiarajan, Semmalai, Ponnaiyan and, Dr V Maitreyan.
"Over 75 district secretaries have met Palaniswami and pledged their support to him," said D Jayakumar, former minister and AIADMK senior politician, to reporters.