AIADMK MLA VV Rajan Chellappa on Saturday strongly pitched for a single ‘charismatic’ leadership to steer the party, saying the present arrangement of dual power centres impeded quick decisions.
The leader's remarks come in the backdrop of the party's dismal performance in Lok Sabha polls. The AIADMK currently has two top posts of co-cordinator and coordiantor held by Chief Minister K Palaniswami and his deputy O Panneerselvam.
Palaniswami, when asked if there was factional fued in the AIADMK (in the backdrop of Chellappa's single leadership pitch), he said it was "disinformation," disseminated by Opposition parties and sections of the media.
"If quarrel was true, how come so many cadres are joining the AIADMK from rival outfit AMMK," the Chief Minsiter shot back. "This is unnecessary, the AIADMK is a robust party," he told reporters in Salem.
"This is a party of cadres and it is led by workers. All cadres are leaders here," he said when asked if "dual leadership" was responsible for the dismal Lok Sabha poll performance of his party.
Ruling out any rift, he said the AIADMK government would successfully complete its full term in 2021 and go on to win the Assembly polls that year.
While Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam declined to react, Senior leader and Forests Minister Dindigul C Sreenivasan said the leadership arrangement was quite good.
Chellappa, a former city Mayor, is the first party leader in recent times to openly bat for naming a single leader to the top party post of general secretary.
Lack of a charismatic leadership after the demise of Amma was also among the reasons for the Lok Sabha poll debacle, he claimed.
The MLA's demand is perceived to have put the cat among the pigeons in the ruling party where the talk of division in the ranks has emerged again.
After the polls, the AIADMK vigorously wooed cadres who had switched to the rival Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) and several of them joined hands with the ruling party recently.
Only P Raveendranath Kumar, son of Panneerselvam, won from Theni Lok Sabha seat, while all other AIADMK nominees lost. Of the 22 Assembly seats where bypolls were held, the ruling party managed to win nine constituencies.
Addressing a press conference, Chellappa, who represents the North Assembly segment here, said he had discussions with several MLAs who also were of the view that the power should be in the hands of one leader.
After the merger of factions led by Palaniswami and Panneerselvam in August 2017, the party had appointed chief minister and his deputy as its co-coordinator and coordinator respectively.
The MLA, however, refrained from naming anyone despite prodding from reporters and said "any leader with influence among the people, with charisma and recognised by Amma should assume power".
The proposal would be put forth in the General Council meeting, he told reporters.
Both Palaniswami and Panneerselvam had the blessings of the late leader and it could be assessed who was better and a third leader too with such traits can be scouted, he said.
"Whether it is the Chief Minister or Deputy Chief Minister they should be in a position to take decisions," he said and stressed that only a single leadership would be able to deliver.
When asked to identify the charismatic leader, he said "we will for sure identify when the time comes." "Even they will be desiring it," he said apparently referring to Palaniswami and Panneerselvam.
"Through you I am proposing what we intend to do in the General Council meeting," he said. The "general council can take a decision on it," he said adding the choice can be CM or some one else.
Though the factions led by Palaniswami and Panneerselvam have merged, those belonging to such groups have not fully integrated themselves with the party, he said.
Chellappa also wondered why the nine AIADMK MLAs who won in the bypolls did not pay tributes at the sammadhi of late Jayalalithaa and party founder M G Ramachandran.
Only Theni Lok Sabha member P Raveendranath Kumar paid tributes, he said and asked if this was a fault of the headquarters, or the MLAs. "Who is preventing them," he asked.
Palaniswami, however, refuted this claim saying "many (new) MLAs have paid tributes." The MLA said he and several others in the party had an apprehension if such discord would go against the party.
Grievances needed to be addressed especially when the local body polls were expected shortly and the Assembly polls in two years, he said.
Asked if he felt the "twin leadership" led to lack of discipline, he said appropriate and timely decisions were not taken due to such a party structure that devolved power on two leaders.
He said rival leader TTV Dhinakaran's (AMMK) challenge too has faded now with the poll drubbing of his nominees.
"In the general council we would raise our voice for a unitary leadership and a general secretary should be elected," he said. The party needed a single capable, altruistic leader to steer the party with discipline, he said.
Despite request by them, there was no announcement on either the general council meet or a gathering of district secretaries and MLAs to discuss such party related matters, he added.