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A battery of senior lawyers are arguing before the Delhi High Court in an attempt to find a solution to the bitter political feud between two factions of Tamil Nadu’s ruling party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).
Ever since the death of party supremo J Jayalalithaa, there has been constant infighting between various groups within the party. Presently, there are two factions which are up against each other and are laying claim to Jayalalithaa’s political legacy.
One faction is led by Jayalalithaa’s former associate and close friend Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dinakaran, while the other one is led by current Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswami and Deputy CM O Panneerselvam, referred to as the OPS-EPS faction.
In March last year, the Election Commission had frozen the traditional ‘two leaves’ symbol of the party and had allotted new symbols to both the warring factions.
However, after the groups led by OPS and EPS merged and became one faction, the Election Commission, in November, recognised it as the real party and allowed it to use the ‘two leaves’ symbol.
The TTV Dinakaran faction then approached the Delhi High Court against the said decision of the EC, claiming that it was the real AIADMK. It was alleged that the order was biased and given at the behest of the Centre.
In December last year, the Election Commission allotted the ‘pressure cooker’ symbol to the Dinakaran faction to contest the RK Nagar bypoll (formerly contested by Jayalalithaa), which it eventually won by a large margin.
On Thursday, Delhi High Court’s Single Judge Bench of Justice Rekha Palli heard the arguments and counter arguments put forth by both the sides.
The TTV Dinakaran faction prayed that a name and a symbol (pressure cooker) be allotted to it temporarily till the petition, which claims that the faction is the real AIADMK, is decided by the Court.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Dinakaran faction, stated that they had won the by-election on the ‘pressure cooker’ symbol and that the allotment of the same would not affect the other faction. He also suggested four names to the Court that could be adopted by the Dinakaran faction.
Fellow Congress leader and Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi added that without a symbol, the means of identification will be denied to them. He stated that the OPS-EPS faction wants them to apply for registration as a new political party, thereby foregoing the claim of being the real AIADMK.
“They want our political activities to be at a standstill by not having a symbol…they want to win by default.”
Appearing for the OPS-EPS faction, Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan stated that the law does not allow a convict to contest elections. He further stated that the purpose behind this rule is to discourage criminals from entering into politics. He argued that the plea wants the Court to confer the honour of a symbol on the faction of a person who is in jail.
On Friday, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the OPS-EPS faction, argued that the Delhi High Court was not the appropriate forum for the case.
Rohatgi stated that the Dinakaran faction wanted to establish a political party and that can only be done through the Election Commission, and not through the High Court.
The Election Commission also stated that according to precedent, it cannot recognize a rebel group, and without recognizing them, a symbol cannot be allotted.
Arguments will continue on Monday.