AIADMK crisis: With Sasikala and Dinakaran out of the picture, rival camps of OPS, EPS under pressure to merge

Whoever said a picture is worth a thousand words had not figured out that in the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, lack of a picture is worth a million words. The act of taking down hoardings and banners bearing VK Sasikala's pictures from the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai on Tuesday (see pictures below) and replacing them with former chief minister J Jayalalithaa pictures, sought to convey that the party had slipped out of the grip of the Mannargudi family. Within hours of the curtains being brought down on Sasikala, her nephew TTV Dinakaran was arrested by Delhi Police.

There have been few tears shed at the downfall of the Sasikala clan as most believe that the family that cheats or is alleged to have cheated together, stays together (in prison).

Banners and posters bearing VK Sasikala's solo pictures were replaced with Jayalalithaa's at AIADMK headquarters in Chennai. Image courtesy: TS Sudhir

Banners and posters bearing VK Sasikala's solo pictures were replaced with Jayalalithaa's at AIADMK headquarters in Chennai. Image courtesy: TS Sudhir

While Sasikala is resigned to staying behind bars till 2021, Dinakaran has only himself to blame for the mess he has found himself in. He is accused of trying to bribe Election Commission officials to get the two leaves symbol for his AIADMK faction. The arrest took place soon after Special Judge Poonam Chaudhary asked Delhi Police what action had been taken against the AIADMK deputy general secretary. This was while the court was hearing the police request to extend police custody of alleged middleman Sukesh Chandrasekhar.

Since Saturday, Dinakaran was being interrogated by the Crime Branch, with his assistant Janarthanan and friend Mallikarjuna also probed many times to check if the versions matched. While Dinakaran and Mallikarjuna are now in custody, Janarthanan could turn approver. This even as Sukesh denied any involvement in the case and told the media as he was being led away by the police that he was being framed because of his "criminal past".

Dinakaran's varying versions aren't helping his cause. When the case broke out, he denied knowing anyone called Sukesh. But during interrogation he is believed to have said that he thought Sukesh was a High court judge. Dinakaran also reportedly said Sukesh offered to help him with the party symbol case but he declined the offer. The call data records could prove to be circumstantial evidence in the case, as sources suggest the two spoke 20 hours before Sukesh was arrested on 15 April from a hotel in Delhi.

Sources say Sukesh had led Dinakaran to believe officials in the Election Commission could swing the decision in his favour if they were bribed with Rs 50 crore. The challenge for the police is to establish the hawala money trail in a convincing manner.

Tamil Nadu will look at the political fallout of the Dinakaran arrest with interest. With the top two in the ruling faction of the AIADMK — Sasikala and Dinakaran — in legal trouble and out of the picture, the decks are now clear for the two rival political camps to talk truce. So far, the O Panneerselvam camp has played hardball because it suspected that family's ouster was a charade and that there was more than what met the eye.

Deputy general secretary (AIADMK) TTV Dinakaran. Image courtesty: Facebook

Deputy general secretary (AIADMK) TTV Dinakaran. Image courtesty: Facebook

As evidence, it pointed to the party organ 'Namadhu MGR' which published an article this week that said that Sasikala and Dinakaran will be supported by the people and the party cadre. Former chief minister O Panneerselvam or OPS camp leader and former minister KP Munusamy who has been adopting a belligerent line vis-a-vis the rival camp says this is proof that the party is in the family's hands. What Munusamy glosses over is that right from Jayalalithaa's time, both Jaya TV and Namathu MGR have been controlled by Sasikala and her appointees and after 15 February, when she went to jail, by her loyalists. Which is why on most recent developments in the party, Jaya TV has played down the news. It will take another legal battle to take the two significant communication assets away from the family.

The removal of the posters was the Edappadi Palaniswamy camp's way of placating team OPS. But Panneerselvam wants to see the aunt and nephew's formal resignation letters before embarking on talks. Another condition is to order a CBI probe into Jayalalithaa's death, that they believe will end up indicting Sasikala's role. The ruling faction interprets imposition of these conditions as an attempt to stall the merger process.

The real hurdle is something else. The OPS camp is insistent on the chief minister's post, something Palaniswamy is not willing to part with. Senior leaders in the Panneerselvam camp argue that the party has followed the tradition of one leader, two posts, referring to both MGR and Jayalalithaa occupying both positions of chief minister and general secretary when they were around. More importantly, they feel OPS as general secretary will not be able to wield much clout given the bad blood between leaders of the two camps. For one, the eight legislators who owe allegiance to the Sasikala family are certain not to fall in line if OPS is party boss, more so if Dinakaran is in jail. Finally, when the party is in power, it is the chief minister who holds the real power.

But the Palaniswamy camp is reluctant to let the 12 MLA strong OPS camp dictate terms to the 122 MLA strong EPS faction. At best, Finance minister D Jayakumar is willing to let go of his finance portfolio and have OPS take charge of his old ministry. But as far as the chief minister's chair is concerned, the EPS camp and the Gounder community in particular, have closed ranks.

Given that the NDA government is possibly looking at the Lok Sabha election and polls to several state assemblies together in November 2018, the BJP which has been accused by the DMK of meddling in AIADMK affairs, won't be too keen on the government falling for at least the next 18 months. The warring factions have been told to hammer out a solution. But with both parties extremely unhappy to come together after the divorce, the re-marriage under duress is certain to take time.

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Updated Date: Apr 26, 2017 12:25:35 IST

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