In another twist in the high voltage drama unfolding after Jaylalitha’s death, the rebelling bloc of the AIADMK led by O Pannerselvam, popularly known as OPS, today moved closer to a merger with the ruling faction of the party,on the only condition that VK Sasikala and her relatives be ousted from the party.

It was Ms.Sasikala, Jayalalitha’s live-in aide, who moved to usurp power in the wake of the party supremo’s demise,a move that seemed to have the backing of all party leaders when she was elected as chief secretary. However, trouble began when the stand-in CM OPS refused to quit, and was subsequently dismissed from the party by Sasikala. However, Ms.Sasikala’s move seemed to backfire soon as the Supreme Court sentenced her to four years in prison on charges of corruption – she continues to be incarcerated in Bengaluru, effectively ending her chief ministerial ambitions. She managed to instal loyalist E Palaniswamy as Chief Minister – and he proved his loyalty today by insisting that her removal cannot be a prerequisite to a merger. Before heading to jail, Ms Sasikala also made Mr Dinakaran, her nephew, the party No 2, keeping the rank of party chief for herself. The ruling bloc led by her has about 120 legislators, but the rival OPS bloc has most senior ministers, and momentum owing to recurring allegations of corruption against the Sasikala family.

Amazingly, most fresh trouble for Sasikala has come from her nephew, who was to contest Jayalalitha’s LS constituency in the recently concluded by-polls. However, there were allegations of such gross impropriety in his campaign that the Election Commission decided to cancel the vote. It did not end there – yesterday, the Delhi Police accused Mr Dinakaran with corruption and criminal conspiracy for allegedly deputing a 27-year-old to bribe Election Commission officials with up to Rs. 50 crore. The young “fixer”, Sukash Chandrasekhar, has shared details with the police of Mr Dinakaran’s alleged plans to “buy” the party symbol. The two-leaf symbol is the most recognizable symbol of the party, and the EC was scheduled to hear both sides in the dispute over who can legitimately use the symbol in elections.

The repeated allegations of misconduct against Dinakaran, and Sasikala, have caused many legislators in her bloc to rebel in fear of a public backlash. A group of 10 ministers has been assigned to hold talks with the OPS faction for a merger. “We are brothers from the same family,” said a minister, Sellur Raju, who is part of the negotiating team. What has to be worked out is whether Mr Palaniswamy will remain Chief Minister, if a merger takes places, and if Mr Panneerselvam will get a top post – like party chief. The momentum for a reconciliation picked up last evening when Mr Dinakaran was away from Chennai. He planned to meet his aunt, Ms Saikala, in jail, was unable to do so, and may attempt a conferral today, said sources.