Tamil Nadu BJP president K. Annamalai on Saturday said that the withdrawal of the candidate fielded by AIADMK’s deposed coordinator, O. Panneerselvam, was his party’s preferred option as a coalition partner for the Erode (East) byelection, which is scheduled to be held on February 27.
Addressing media persons in Chennai on Saturday, he said that an appeal had been made to Mr. Panneerselvam in this regard. He expressed hope that a good decision would be announced on Saturday. He said BJP’s preference to back K.S. Thennarasu, the candidate fielded by AIADMK’s interim general secretary Edappadi K. Palaniswami, was because he was a two-time MLA and a stronger candidate.
Moreover, Mr. Panneerselvam withdrawing his candidate might the pave for a single candidate from the AIADMK to contest on the two-leaves symbol, which, he said, was crucial for the alliance’s victory. He said that the BJP was particular that it did not want to support a candidate contesting on an independent symbol.
On Friday, Mr. Annamalai and the BJP’s national general secretary and T.N. in charge, C.T. Ravi, had met both Mr. Panneerselvam and Mr. Palaniswami separately, and asked them to work together in a “united AIADMK.”
Stating that BJP never wanted to contest the bylection as it respected the the “coalition dharma,” he said the party was working since the beginning towards a single candidate from the AIADMK through continuous discussions with Mr. Palaniswami and Mr. Panneerselvam.
While the BJP had refrained from making its preference public so far, it had now decided to do so as further delay was unacceptable, he said. Mr. Annamalai also said the Supreme Court’s direction on Friday regarding the AIADMK had been taken into consideration. He said when he and BJP’s national general secretary C.T. Ravi met Mr. Panneerselvam on Friday and made the appeal, Mr. Panneerselvam had sought time and made a few demands if he were to withdraw his candidate. Mr. Annamalai, however, refused to divulge more details.
‘No interference in internal affairs of AIADMK’
Mr. Annamalai stressed that BJP’s appeal to Mr. Panneerselvam was only regarding the Erode (East) byelection and clarified that his party’s stand of not wanting to intervene in the internal affairs of the AIADMK continued. He said that the statement made by Mr. Ravi on Friday regarding the party’s appeal for a “united AIADMK” was only in the context of fighting the bypoll unitedly on the AIADMK’s two-leaves symbol.
His clarification came in the backdrop of comments made by a few leaders from Mr. Palaniswami’s camp, strongly criticising the BJP for trying to “dictate” what the AIADMK should do. Mr. Annamalai discarded such comments as the views of “some second-rung leaders” who did not fully understand the discussions the BJP had had, since the announcement of the byelection with Mr. Palaniswami and Mr. Panneerselvam. He said he had also warned certain leaders from the BJP, who responded to the criticism on social media, not to make such comments without understanding the context.