AIADMK power struggle: Movers and shakers

A look at the top players in OPS and Sasikala camps.

Updated - February 15, 2017 05:30 pm IST

Published - February 10, 2017 09:47 pm IST

The key players in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam’s side: (left to right) former Minister ‘Natham’ R. Viswanathan, former Minister K.P. Munusamy, AIADMK presidium chairman E. Madhusudhanan, Rajya Sabha MP V. Maitreyan and former Speaker P.H. Pandian in Chennai on February 9, 2017.

The key players in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam’s side: (left to right) former Minister ‘Natham’ R. Viswanathan, former Minister K.P. Munusamy, AIADMK presidium chairman E. Madhusudhanan, Rajya Sabha MP V. Maitreyan and former Speaker P.H. Pandian in Chennai on February 9, 2017.

A look at the top players in power struggle in the AIADMK between the O. Panneerselvam and V.K. Sasikala factions. As of February 15, the Panneerselvam camp has the support of 11 MLAs while Sasikala's has 125.

Panneerselvam camp

E. Madhusudhanan

AIADMK’s presidium chairman, the second most powerful post in the party. The Sasikala camp says he has been expelled from the party and replaced him with K.A. Sengottaiyan. But Mr. Madhusudhanan insists that he can’t be expelled and maintains that V.K. Sasikala lacks qualification to be the general secretary of the AIADMK. He says he has written to the Election Commission that her appointment as interim general secretary is invalid as she was not a member of the AIADMK for five continuous years, as required by the party constitution. Ms. Sasikala and her clan — her husband M. Natarajan and 12 of their close relatives — were expelled on December 19, 2011. On March 31, 2012, only Ms. Sasikala’s expulsion was revoked .

K. P. Munusamy

Former Minister K.P. Munusamy has been even termed by a section of the Tamil media as the brain behind Mr. Panneerselvam’s revolt. Once a powerful frontbencher in the Jayalalithaa dispensation, he was dropped from the Jayalalithaa Ministry after the AIADMK lost the Dharmapuri seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. He was pitted against PMK’s Anbumani Ramadoss in Pennagaram and lost in the 2016 Assembly elections. He was among the very few old-timers who did not support Ms. Sasikala’s elevation, and perhaps the first voice of dissent when he took on her brother V. Divakaran for attempting to wield influence over the party.

P.H. Pandian

Interestingly the “Panneer revolution” at the Marina happened on the same day former Tamil Nadu Speaker P.H. Pandian raised questions on the manner in which Ms. Sasikala was elected as the general secretary as well as the leader of the Legislature Party. Besides, he, along with his son Manoj Pandian, a former AIADMK MP, also raised suspicions over the circumstances surrounding Jayalalithaa’s death . Mr. P.H. Pandian is known for his infamous declaration that the Speaker had “sky-high powers” and is expected to be the legal brain of the Panneerselvam side as it takes on Ms. Sasikala.

‘Natham’ R. Viswanathan

Mr. Viswanathan too fell from grace much like Mr. Munusamy. After being No. 3 in the Jayalalithaa Cabinet, the former Power Minister too was pitted against a powerful opponent and lost in the 2016 Assembly elections. Since then his attempts to regain prominence have come to nought. His house was raided along with that of the son of former Chennai Mayor Saidai Duraisamy on September 13, 2016.

V. Maitreyan

The first MP to side with Mr. Panneerselvam, Mr. Maitreyan, a former BJP Tamil Nadu unit chief, joined the AIADMK in 1999 and was sent to the Rajya Sabha soon after. He became the party’s deputy leader in the House, held on to the post till 2014. His impressive stint in the AIADMK came to a halt when he was removed as the floor leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha. He also lost his party post as State president of AIADMK’s medical wing. Not long before Mr. Panneerselvam’s revolt, Mr. Maitreyan was seen to be in Ms. Sasikala’s good books. But he chose to side with Mr. Panneerselvam since “people of Tamil Nadu and AIADMK cadres are with OPS”. Critics and a section of the media cite the former RSS-BJP man’s presence in the OPS camp to add credence to their theory that the Centre is orchestrating the political crisis in Tamil Nadu.

Ma Foi K. Pandiarajan

A HR consultant, Mr. Pandiarajan started his political career by joining the BJP in 2000. Later, he shifted to the DMDK and he contested the 2011 Assembly elections from Virudhunagar and won. In 2016, he contested as the AIADMK candidate and won from the Avadi constituency. On August 29, 2016, Pandiarajan was appointed as Minister for School Education and Sports and Youth Welfare. He was the first Minister to join the Panneerselvam camp, after being a vocal spokesperson of the rival camp for a few days.

Sasikala camp

T.T.V. Dinakaran

AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala and her nephew T.T.V. Dinakaran during her meeting with Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao in Chennai on February 9, 2017. Photo: Special Arrangement

AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala and her nephew T.T.V. Dinakaran during her meeting with Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao in Chennai on February 9, 2017. Photo: Special Arrangement


For a man who had been thrown out of the party by Jayalalithaa, the re-entry and elevation of Mr. Dinakaran, Sasikala’s nephew, as deputy general secretary is nothing but dramatic. He was once so powerful in the party that he rose to become Treasurer, the post of which Mr. Panneerselvam has now been relieved. The former Periyakulam MP is said to have been instrumental in getting Mr. Paneerselvam an MLA ticket and place in Jayalalithaa’s Cabinet . Mr. Dinakaran’s presence at Sasikala’s all-important meeting with Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao has been seen as a sign of him regaining clout in the party. 

S. Venkatesh

Dr. Venkatesh is the son of Sasikala’s brother Sundaravadanan. His sister Anuradha is married to the current deputy general secretary of the part T.T.V. Dinakaran. Dr. Venkatesh, who once headed the party’s youth forum, was among the Sasikala’s relatives expelled from the party in 2011. He has now been re-inducted by Sasikala. According to a section of the Tamil media he, along with Mr. Dinakaran, are calling the shots, relegating Sasikala's husband M. Natarajan and brother V. Divakaran.

Also read: Mannargudi clan hogs limelight at funeral, triggers controversy

Edappadi K. Palaniswami

Edappadi K. Palaniswami

Edappadi K. Palaniswami


Sasikala’s choice for AIADMK Legislature Party Leader, Mr. Palaniswami has been a staunch Jayalalithaa loyalist since the time she entered active politics in the 1980s. He was part of her four-member kitchen cabinet from 2011-16 along with Mr. Panneerselvam and former Ministers Mr. Viswanathan and R. Vaithilingam.

K.A. Sengottaiyan

Mr. Sengottaiyan has been made presidium chairman of the AIADMK by Sasikala after sacking E. Madhusudhanan. A veteran dating back to MGR times, Mr. Sengottaiyan used to have a lot of influence in party affairs. He was even vested with the responsibility of drafting Jayalalithaa’s campaign plans election after election. His fall from grace came in 2012 when he lost both his Ministerial as well as party posts and has been keeping a low profile since then. He was not inducted into the Cabinet when Jayalalithaa returned to power in 2016. Mr. Sengottaiyan has always been a Jayalalithaa loyalist unlike Mr. Panneerselvam who cast his lot with the Janaki faction after MGR’s death.

C. Sreenivasan

Mr. Sreenivasan has been a four-time MP of the party from Dindigul and a party veteran who rose to become Treasurer under Jayalalithaa. He lost his post to Sasikala’s nephew Mr. Dinakaran in 2006, and the latter lost it to Mr. Panneerselvam in 2007 . Life came a full circle for Mr. Sreenivasan in 2017 when he was made Treasurer again by Ms. Sasikala. It was quite a rehabilitation for him as only in the 2016 polls he was given a seat as MLA in 2016 and was later made a Minister after being sidelined by his once protégé ‘Natham’ R. Viswanthan in his home district of Dindigul.

M. Natarajan

M. Natarajan, V.K. Sasikala’s husband. File photo

M. Natarajan, V.K. Sasikala’s husband. File photo



Ms. Sasikala’s husband, a former government PRO, is seen as the leader of Sasikala’s camp, and one of the main persons her opponents cite for their differences with her. Tamil bi-weekly Nakkeeran reports that the events that led to her election as AIADMK Legislature Party leader were scripted by Mr. Natarajan, who reportedly camped in New Delhi and lobbied with his connections both in the BJP and the Congress. On January 17, 2017, he made a claim that it was his family that protected Jayalalithaa after the death of M.G. Ramachandran . “We have made sacrifices and stood by her till the end. But we are accused of indulging in family politics. Why shouldn’t we claim credit for safeguarding the AIADMK,” he had asked. He had also accused the BJP of trying to split the AIADMK and destabilise the Tamil Nadu government and “saffronise” the State. Though Jayalalithaa never kept him close, he is back in the party more powerful.

V. Divakaran

V. Divakaran, V.K. Sasikala’s brother.

V. Divakaran, V.K. Sasikala’s brother.


Ms. Sasikala’s brother, who too, was thrown out of the party by Jayalalithaa in 2011, reclaimed his prominence after her death. On January 14, 2017 he made a speech in Thanjavur that Mr. Natarajan was instrumental in retrieving the party’s ‘Two Leaves’ symbol after it was frozen following the split in the party after MGR’s death. This triggered former Minister K.P. Munusamy’s outburst against the Mannargudi family. “We did not mushroom [in the AIADMK] in overnight rains. Natarajan and I played a role in building the party and elevating Jayalalithaa as Leader of the Opposition and later as Chief Minister,” Mr. Divakaran had said. Earlier poles apart, Mr. Natarajan and Mr. Divakaran are said to be closely coordinating the affairs of the Sasikala faction now.


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