Amid Merger Talks, Team OPS Goes On Pilgrimage, Will Meet PM Tomorrow

From Delhi, O Panneerselvam and his team went to Maharashtra, where they made offerings at two shrines -- Shirdi and Shani Shringarpur

Amid Merger Talks, Team OPS Goes On Pilgrimage, Will Meet PM Tomorrow

The Team OPS made offerings at two shrines of Maharashtra, Shirdi and Shani Shringarpur.

New Delhi: A breakthrough yet to be made in merger between the two rival factions of Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK in Delhi, the team of former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam went on a quiet pilgrimage two popular shrines of Maharashtra - Shirdi and Shani Shringarpur.  But they will be back in Delhi tomorrow, for a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

OPS, as he is popularly known in Tamil Nadu, and Chief Minister E Palaniswami   were in Delhi over the week-end to attend the oath ceremony of Venkaiah Naidu, who took over as the Vice President of India on Friday.  But they were also expected to hammer out the details of a merger, which had an August 15 deadline -- and meet PM Modi. There are speculations that the AIADMK is moving towards an alliance with the BJP - the party leaders have so far skirted the issue in their statements.

But OPS was not present during Chief Minister Palaniswami's meeting with PM Modi. He was later granted a separate time slot by the Prime Minister. Asked about it earlier, Mr Panneerselvam sounded casual. "We have met the PM during the swearing-in. No need to meet him separately," Mr Panneerselvam told NDTV. Asked if he would visit Mumbai next, he only smiled.

C Vidyasagar Rao, who is the Governor of Maharashtra, holds the additional charge of Tamil Nadu. Mr Rao usually resides in Mumbai. But he is expected to be in Chennai this evening for a private event and will stay there till the Independence Day.

Sources in the Panneerselvam camp have been skeptical of the two factions coming to an understanding, since part of their differences involve the contentious issue of who will head the Tamil Nadu government.

The OPS faction also wants a CBI investigation into the death of Ms Jayalalithaa, who died in December while she was the Chief Minister. The demand had been a deal-breaker in the earlier round of merger talks.

Their other demand is the formal removal of Jayalalithaa's live-in aide VK Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran from the two topmost party posts.  The two have already been sidelined by EPS, whom Sasikala had installed as the proxy in the state's top job before she went to jail in February in a corruption case.

Mr Dinakaran, who has been named in several corruption cases, commands a support of around 16 legislators - including some ministers in the EPS camp. Both factions are keenly watching a rally near Madurai that he is expected to address tomorrow.
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