Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami today said unity was the need of the hour to take the party and the AIADMK government forward, amid a threat to his government's stability posed by 18 MLAs loyal to sidelined party deputy chief T T V Dhinakaran.
Senior AIADMK leader and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai, however, dismissed any threat to the government in the wake of revolt by the 18 MLAs, who have expressed lack of confidence in Palaniswami's leadership.
He said the state government was strong and there was no division in the party.
On yet another day of hectic political developments in the state, Dhinakaran, nephew of jailed AIADMK chief V K Sasikala, sought to assert his authority by stripping four ministers of party posts while MLAs loyal to him continued to stay put in a resort in Puducherry.
DMK's ally Congress pitched for a floor test in the assembly, a day after the Dravidian party made a similar demand claiming 22 AIADMK MLAs had submitted letters to Governor Ch Vidayasagar Rao expressing lack of confidence in the chief minister.
In the 234-member assembly, the AIADMK has 134 MLAs. Sasikala's brother V Dinakaran, meanwhile, claimed the Palaniswami ministry had "lost majority" and sought his resignation.
"Such a government cannot continue. Palaniswami has to resign," he told reporters at Kumbakonam.
Thambidurai told reporters in Chennai that the "Tamil Nadu government under the leadership of Palaniswami is strong. There are no divisions," he added.
Palaniswami later made the comments on unity at a government function in Ariyalur where he shared the dais with his deputy O Panneerselvam for the first time after the merger of two AIADMK factions led by them.
Addressing the centenary celebrations of AIADMK founder and late chief minister M G Ramachandran, the two leaders heaped praises on him and late chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
Palaniswami said the recent merger of the two factions was done with the aim of fulfiling the dreams of Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa and expressed joy over today's meeting.
The chief minister, facing an attack from the Dhinakaran camp over the merger, stressed on unity to take the party and government forward.
"We should strengthen the party and the government like siblings. That unity is the offering (apparently meaning gratitude) we make to Amma (Jayalalithaa)," he said.
He also invoked the legacy of MGR and Jayalalithaa and said they had surmounted various challenges during their tenures and provided good governance, earning a place in the hearts of the people of the state.
"None can ever separate the present government and AIADMK from the people's hearts as long as it is guided by the spirit of the two great leaders and as long as spirit of Amma stood as a source of strength," he said.
Like Jayalalitha, he also narrated a short story of a godman making the residents of a village realise the value of unity.
"People will not accept those as leaders who had not done any public service. MGR (Ramachandran) won hearts by public service. Amma later gave shape to his ideas," he said.
In his address at the function, Panneerselvam said Jayalalithaa had turned the AIADMK into "an iron fortress which cannot be shaken by anyone".
The "sacrifices" of Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa should be kept in mind to ensure the well-being of the people of the state and its growth, he added.
A day after meeting the governor, the MLAs supporting the combative Dhinakaran, stayed put at a private resort in neighbouring Puducherry. They largely remained indoors.
A few of them, including Andipatti MLA Thangatamilselvan, went out for morning walk at the beach there.
Police personnel have been deployed outside the resort and media was not allowed to enter the premises.
The local wing of the unified AIADMK burned effigies of Dhinakaran, nephew of Sasikala, near the resort and raised slogans against them.
In a bid to assert his authority, Dhinakaran "relieved" four ministers -- RB Uthayakumar, KC Veeramani, MR Vijayabaskar and R Kamaraj -- of party posts.
In separate statements, Dhinakaran announced the appointments of his aides to these posts and also relieved the district secretaries of Chennai (South), Kancheepuram, Thiruvallore (West) and Pudukottai of their duties.
In the Dravidian parties' hierarchy, district secretaries play a key role in the organisational growth.
Dhinakaran also appointed a number of his supporters to various others posts including that of the organisation secretary, besides expanding the office-bearers list.
The appointments were made with the "approval" of Sasikala, he said.
The latest shake-up by Dhinakaran comes two days after the merger of the two factions, which has irked his followers.
Under the arrangement, Panneerselvam was made deputy chief minister and the coordinator of the party. Palaniswami was named co-coordinator.
It was also agreed that steps would be taken to expel Sasikala, which was a pre-condition for the merger. In the wake of differences in the ruling party, the DMK has demanded a floor test in the assembly to prove that the government was in a majority.
In Puducherry, former MLA Om Sakthi Segar led the protest against Sasikala and Dhinakaran and submitted a petition to the district collector and SP asking them to instruct the MLAs to vacate the resort in the "larger interest of law and order".